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University of Toronto 







WiLLiAivi Clayton Bower 

Author of 

The Curricidum of Religious Education; 

Character Through Creative Experience; 

Religion and the Good Life; Etc. 

^^l /^'AAo^o^ 


New York 1936 London 

KNOX ^ ''"GS 

Copyright, 1936, by Harper & Brothers 
Printed in the United States of America 



All rights in this book are reserved. 

No part of the book may be reproduced in any 

manner whatsoever without written permission. 

For information address 

Harper & Brothers. 


Preface vii 

I. Has the Bible a Place in the Modern World ? i 

II. Achieving a Religious Adjustment to Our World 15 

III. The Significance of the Present 29 

IV. The Bible as a Resource for Religious Living 43 
V. The Cultural Development of the Hebrews 55 

VI. The Development of the Old Testament Literature 75 
VII. The Christian Movement and the Mediterranean 

World 96 
VIII. The Internal Development of the Christian 

Movement no 

IX. The Development of the New Testament Literature 124 

X. Starting with People Where They Are 142 

XI. The Principle of Reverse Order 157 

XII. The Principle of Relevancy 168 

XIII. The Principle of Historical Perspective 182 

XIV. Recovering the Religious Values of the Bible 197 
Appendix: Chronology of Literature of Old and 

New Testaments 215 

Bibliography 217 

Index 221 


This book is devoted to the problem of how the Bible, hav- 
ing arisen within the living experience of the ancient re- 
ligious community, may be made to function in the religious 
experience of the contemporary religious community. It 
falls, therefore, within the practical field of operative re- 
ligion. It is not a book in the field of biblical criticism. 
Researches into the origin and nature of the Bible have 
been carried on for a long time. They have covered every 
phase of Old and New Testament literature with well-estab- 
lished and competent critical and historical techniques. The 
results of these researches are reported in a voluminous 
literature on the Bible. This literature has made available 
to the religious community accurate and dependable knowl- 
edge concerning the origin and nature of the Bible. 

But these biblical researches have not made it clear how 
the Bible may be most eflfectively utilized by modern re- 
ligious persons in the cultivation of the spiritual life. This 
problem of utilization is essentially an educational problem, 
and lies within the field of the practical operations of re- 
ligion. For some time researches have been conducted on 
the problem of the educational use of the great cultural in- 
heritances of the race as resources for assisting growing 
persons to achieve an effective adjustment to the world in 
which they live through a creative experience. As a result 
of these studies, the outlines of what constitutes a creative 
experience on the part of growing persons are beginning to 
be clear. The place and function of racial experience in such 
a creative experience are also becoming clear. 

It is the purpose of the present discussion to bring to- 


gether some of the results of research in these two fields — 
the origin and nature of the Bible, on the one hand, and its 
effective utilization for the stimulation, enrichment and 
guidance of the experience of religious persons in the mod- 
ern world, on the other. This book will add nothing to what 
is already known about the Bible as a book of literature. 
Such data regarding the origin and nature of the Bible as 
are here presented are for illustrative purposes only and are 
drawn freely from the much older and ampler findings of 
biblical scholarship. The contribution of this book lies in its 
attempt to reduce to practical suggestions for the fruitful 
use of the Bible the principles involved in the utilization of 
the end-products of a past religious experience. It is hoped 
that these suggestions may prove useful to those who seek 
to use the Bible in the cultivation of their own religious life, 
and to those who are charged with the responsibility of 
helping others, whether as ministers, religious educators or 
missionaries, in achieving a religious adjustment to the 
world in which they live. 

It is impossible for the author to indicate his indebtedness 
to the many authorities in the biblical field upon whom he 
has drawn freely for his illustrative material. He does, 
however, wish to acknowledge his great indebtedness to Dr. 
Edgar J. Goodspeed for preparing especially for use in this 
volume the chronology of the literature of the New Testa- 
ment; to Dr. William C. Graham and Dr. Donald W. 
Riddle for reading the sections on the Old and New Testa- 
ments respectively, and for many helpful suggestions, 
though neither is to be held responsible for any positions 
taken in the text; to Dr. William C. Graham and Dr. Her- 
bert G. May for making available their manuscript on Cul- 
ture and Conscience prior to publication; to Mrs. Bower for 
assistance in preparing the manuscript ; and to the University 
of Chicago Press, for permission to quote from the American 


Translation of the Bible, by J. M. Powis Smith and Edgar 
J. Goodspeed, from which all the biblical quotations in the 
text are taken except as otherwise indicated, as well as 
for permission to use the chronology of the literature of the 
Old Testament from The Story of tlie Old Testament by 
Edgar J. Goodspeed. 

W. C. B. 
The University of Chicago 

Chapter I: Has the Bible a Place in the 
Modern World? 

Among educated people the Bible is more and more be- 
coming an unread book. 

This phenomenon of twentieth century Christianity is the 
more arresting because it is in such radical contrast with 
the historic attitude of Protestants toward the Bible. In its 
reaction from Roman Catholicism, in which the church as 
an institution is the central authority, Protestantism made 
the Bible the source of authority. To be sure, in the Roman 
Catholic Church the Bible was the ultimate source of au- 
thority; but it was the Bible as interpreted officially by the 
living church through the papacy. From the Protestant point 
of view, on the other hand, the Bible was not only inspired 
but, in its role of authoritative Scripture, regulative of the 
faith and order of the church. It was assumed that, God 
having spoken explicitly through the written word, its mes- 
sage and meaning were plain, so that everyone, even the 
uninstructed, could not err in understanding its teachings 
and requirements. This assumption, of course, overlooked 
the fact that as a matter of fact everyone interprets the 
Bible in terms of his social backgrounds, his own experi- 
ence, and his interests and needs. In time, therefore, groups 
sprang up which assumed that their respective interpreta- 
tions of the Bible were the correct interpretations. These 
sects excluded from their fellowship those who interpreted 
the Bible differently as guilty of the sin of heresy. Thus, 
the sectarian structure of Protestantism, however much it 
may be rooted in social processes, is at least materially con- 
ditioned in its intellectual aspects by interpretations of the 


Bible as a divinely inspired book and as a source of au- 
thority in religion. 

This traditional Protestant position has been responsible 
for an attitude of profound reverence for the Bible which 
has expressed itself in many ways. One of these ways is the 
form in which the Bible is printed. It bears on its covers the 
title, THE HOLY BIBLE. Its pages are superbly printed 
on the finest product of the paper-makers art, silk sewed 
and encased in Levant leather, with red-under-gold edges. 
The reverence which has found expression in this form of 
publication has further tended to set the Bible apart from 
other types of literature and to surround it with unique emo- 
tional attitudes. Having been divinely revealed, it could not 
be questioned. It was not amenable to the same techniques 
of literary and historical analysis and criticism which were 
applied to other writings that have come down from antiq- 
uity, such as the works of Homer or Marcus Aurelius, or 
from relatively modern times, such as the works of Shake- 

The Protestant view of the inspiration of the Bible made 
it for a long time a "level" Bible. It still remains such to 
great masses of the Protestant population. This view, un- 
mitigated by the later concept of a developing revelation, 
gave to each passage from the Scriptures an equal validity 
and authority with every other passage. Protestants who 
held to the more formal and plenary view of inspiration felt 
themselves under obligation to "believe the Bible from cover 
to cover," under the conviction that if any part of it were 
open to question the whole must be rejected. 

The same attitude is evidenced by the conventional pro- 
cedure employed in most preaching. Most ministers have 
felt that they must have scriptural authority for their mes- 
sage by basing it upon a text from the Bible, even though 
the content of the sermon may have only a remote relation 


to the text. Most expository preaching rests upon the as- 
sumption that it is the function of preaching to expound the 
Word of God as a given revelation that requires exposition 
rather than criticism and utiHzation in terms of the vital 
issues that well up out of current personal and social ex- 

Among the unlearned the Bible has been used as a fetish 
in the belief that it is clothed with some magical power. 
Sometimes persons facing issues and finding it necessary to 
make practical decisions seek divine guidance by offering a 
prayer and then opening the Bible at random, taking the 
passage upon which the eye first rests as offering the solu- 
tion they seek, whether it is relevant or not. If it is not 
relevant, the passage is interpreted by allegorizing or some 
other method to fit the situation. Sometimes the Bible has 
been used as a charm. A soldier in the World War carried 
a Bible in his pocket over his heart when he went "over 
the top," his life being saved when a bullet struck the Bible. 
He selected the passage on which the point of the bullet 
rested as indicating the divine direction for the remainder 
of his life. 

A particularly common outgrowth of this attitude toward 
the Bible has been the use of the "proof-text" method of 
arriving at divinely revealed truth or of finding scriptural 
support for one's beliefs. The Bible is so used in the tech- 
nique of the catechism. It lies in large part at the foundation 
of the cross-referencing of the Bible where the relevancy 
of passages rests upon verbal agreement rather than upon 
the context of the situations out of which they grew. A sur- 
prising revelation of the extent to which certain modifica- 
tions of this point of view may go even among intelligent 
persons is to be found in the organization of a piece of re- 
search which sought to establish a list of authoritative 
Christian character traits from the Bible by listing all its 


nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs and then classifying 
them into constellations of Christian virtues ! 

This admixture of reverence and a sense of authority has 
shown itself in a feeling on the part of a great many intelli- 
gent Christians that the mere reading of the Bible, irrespec- 
tive of the content or relevancy of that which is read, "does 
them good" by imparting some spiritual quality to their life 
or by giving them some fresh accession of spiritual power. 
Trials are more easily borne, temptations are more effec- 
tively faced with the power that flows from the magical 
Word. This is, of course, the proper function of all symbols, 
whether of religion or art, and in that sense the use of the 
Bible as a symbol of certain attitudes and values is perfectly 
legitimate. But in the attitude here described there is un- 
doubtedly something more than symbolic; it is magical. 

It is interesting to note how persistently this idea of au- 
thority survived even among the most competent critical 
scholars whose use of the historical method made them per- 
fectly familiar with the nature and origin of the various 
parts of the Bible. In the face of detailed knowledge that 
cut the foundations from beneath belief in a mechanical or 
plenary view of inspiration, they nevertheless continued to 
hold to what they believed to be the authority of "essential 
portions," such as the lofty spiritual teachings of the 
prophets and of Jesus, or even of such authentic bodies of 
text as remained after all subsequent additions had been cut 
away from the original sources. 

In recent years, however, this traditional attitude toward 
the Bible as a book of authority has undergone marked de- 
cay. The Bible is read less and less by educated religious 
persons. As a sigTiificant part of our great literary inherit- 
ance its importance and influence have declined in the popu- 
lar mind. Its function in the cultivation of religious ideas 
and attitudes through the processes of preaching and edu- 


cation has become less clear. The problems involved in its 
use have begun to outweigh its advantages, though it con- 
tinues to be used as the basis of preaching and religious 
education throughout the greater part of the Protestant pop- 
ulation. A generation of children and young people is grow- 
ing up to whom the Bible is a remote, unknown and un- 
important book. A recent study of the attitudes of high 
school young people toward the Bible in a great metropoli- 
tan center disclosed the fact that the number of young peo- 
ple who reported that they did not read the Bible, that they 
never discussed the Bible or heard it discussed, and that 
they had no problems with reference to it, was astonishingly 
large. As a book of external authority, approached in the 
frame of traditional attitudes, it would appear that the time- 
honored Bible will occupy a decreasing place, not only in 
our general culture, but in the experience of genuinely re- 
ligious persons. 

There are several reasons that have led to this change of 
attitude toward the Bible. Perhaps the one most immediately 
and directly responsible for it has been the application of 
the critical and historical method to the study of the litera- 
ture of the Bible. This movement, which reached its climax 
toward the end of the nineteenth century, attempted to dis- 
cover from the evidence contained in the literature of the 
Bible itself the structure, origin and historical development 
of its constituent parts. As a result of this movement, the 
natural history of the origin and development of the docu- 
ments that constitute the Bible is now generally known and 
accepted. In the face of the "assured results" of the critical 
and historical movement, it has been impossible for the tradi- 
tional views of inspiration and authority to maintain them- 

The issues that were raised by the critical movement occa- 
sioned violent controversy in the church. It was felt by those 


who held to the more traditional view of the Scriptures that 
the application of this method was destructive of the Bible. 
The protagonists of orthodox views often characterized it 
as "destructive criticism." Nevertheless, the controversies 
that prevailed throughout the church served to keep the Bible 
in the focus of attention. Since the opening decade of the 
present century, however, the issues raised by the critical 
movement have for the most part ceased to be live issues. 
The results of these researches have, on the whole, been 
quite generally accepted and their influence, if not articu- 
late, has penetrated deeply into the intellectual and emo- 
tional attitudes of the masses of the religious population. 
Because the findings and methods of the critical-historical 
movement are not consistent with the supernatural and au- 
thoritative assumptions that supported the traditional view 
of the Bible, the general initial effect of the movement has 
been negative upon those who still hold the traditional view. 
A second reason for the growing disuse of the Bible has 
been its conflict with science. The most recent books of the 
Bible were written many centuries before the rise of the 
scientific method. The findings of the sciences have given us 
a very different picture of the nature of the world and man 
from that contained in the Bible and, for that matter, from 
that generally held before the nineteenth and twentieth cen- 
turies. The scientific method, quite as much as the findings 
of science, is opposed to a supernatural and static concep- 
tion of the world and man. Science has set the phenomena 
of the natural world in a frame of ordered processes that 
proceed by antecedent and consequent. Within this frame 
there has grown up since Darwin the concept of evolution, 
which views both nature and man as genetic processes in 
which continuity and change are united. This hypothesis has 
been used to account for the structure of the vastly extended 
physical universe and the contemporary changes that are 


observable in it, notably in the most recent theory of an 
expanding universe. According to this view, all forms of 
organic life are the outgrowths of earlier and more primi- 
tive forms. Since Herbert Spencer, the concept of evolution 
has been extended to social organization, to institutions and 
to culture. More recently it has been employed in the study 
of the nature and development of religion. It appears as a 
basic assumption in the critical-historical method in dealing 
with the documents of biblical literature. One of the most 
recent and significant applications of the concept of evolu- 
tion has been in the field of philosophy, where reality itself 
is conceived as process, endlessly moving in new and un- 
predictable directions as a result of the emergence of the 
creative forces that are resident in the process itself. 

It was inevitable that the findings of science should have 
profound efifects upon the modern view as to the origin and 
development of man and his culture. Man is seen as emerg- 
ing from lower forms of pre-human life by a gradual proc- 
ess extending over many millenniums and on a terrain reach- 
ing from Sussex, England, to Java, and bearing in his body 
and his psyche many survivals of his animal precursors. 
Ethnology unfolds before the modern mind the gradual evo- 
lution of his culture, extending through at least 250,000 
years, from primitive language, arts and social arrangements 
to a complex and highly diflferentiated planetary civilization. 
Language, the arts, ideas, technology, morals, social institu- 
tions and religion — all have their natural history without 
which the present achievements of man cannot be understood. 

Of course, this is a very different picture of the origin and 
nature of the world and man from that presented in the 
creation stories of Genesis with the creation of a static 
world by fiat, with man falling from an original state of 
perfection and with their outlook upon an extended geo- 
centric universe as an embroidery for a flat earth. Efforts 


to reconcile Genesis with science have proved futile, and lead 
only to confusion. The biblical and scientific views of the 
origin and nature of the world and man belong to entirely- 
different universes of discourse — the one primitive and the 
other scientific. These differences should be frankly recog- 
nized and a constructive adjustment of the two points of 
view sought in an entirely different direction. 

A third reason for the growing disuse of the Bible is the 
obvious irrelevancy of much that is in the Bible to the con- 
crete realities of the modern world. Many parts of the Bible 
are precipitates of extremely primitive stages of culture, 
with correspondingly primitive and naive religious concepts 
and practices, such as may still be found among the remote 
and primitive peoples that have not come under the influences 
of modern civilization. Even the New Testament literature 
was deposited by a movement adjusting itself to types of 
social, economic, intellectual and political life that stand in 
radical contrast with the intellectual, social, economic and 
political life of the present. It is not strange, therefore, that 
much of the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, 
seems remote and unrelated to the experience of men and 
women whose lives are set in the context of the modern 
.world with its tested knowledge, its technology^ its machine 
industry, its intellectual outlook and method, and its experi- 
mental forms of political organization ranging from some 
form of democracy in the United States and Great Britain 
through Fascism in Italy and Naziism in Germany to com- 
munism in Russia. The remarkable thing is that this ir- 
relevancy of much of the Bible to modern life was not dis- 
covered much earlier, and that even yet much effort is 
expended to "apply" these irrelevant sections to the condi- 
tions of modern life. The answer, of course, lies in the fact 
that biblical scholars and laymen have been conditioned so 
thoroughly by the traditional external and authoritative view 


of the Bible that they have been blinded to the issues involved 
in any such attempt. 

In agriculture we no longer think of using the ox-drawn 
wooden plow, the sickle or the flail for planting, harvesting 
and threshing grain. In calculating we no longer count on 
our fingers or use the abacus. In transportation no one thinks 
of reverting from the high-powered automobile, the air- 
plane or the Zephyr railroad train to the ox-cart or the 
sedan-chair. No physician thinks of resorting to leeches, 
red-hot needles or incantations in treating diseases, or to 
performing operations without an anaesthetic. The modern 
philosopher does not seek for light upon the facts regarding 
reality, as disclosed by modern science, from the crude myths 
and animistic explanations of the ancient "wise men." The 
Smithsonian Institution, the Institute of Natural History, 
the Field Museum and the Oriental Institute are filled with 
these relics of bygone days. Those who collect them and 
those who study them are moved by an antiquarian interest 
and a desire to piece together these survivals into some ade- 
quate picture of a remote past that has gone beyond recall. 
Culture and civilization have a timeless value. But only as 
these survivals of a remote past are set in the frame of a 
developing process are they relevant to the present scene. 

In a similar way, concepts of God which belong to a primi- 
tive and narrowly circumscribed tribal culture do not appear 
relevant to modern modes of thought set in the context of a 
highly developed civilization and conditioned by the findings 
and method of science. Rituals which were techniques de- 
signed to secure "mana" for the practical needs of the primi- 
tive group, or to remove its sense of guilt, do not seem 
effective in the light of what we know from the social and 
pyschological sciences. The miracles which were once relied 
upon to authenticate the divine origin and message of the 
Bible now, to the extent to which they are at all considered, 


present a major problem in an ordered and consistent world 
of antecedent and consequent. Certain moral standards that 
are approved or at least condoned in the Bible are offensive 
to a more critical and exacting moral judgment. 

As a result of the operation of these factors, operating 
either singly or in interaction with each other, the Bible in 
our generation is rapidly falling into disuse. For those who 
are deeply concerned because they see in the Bible a precious 
heritage of the historical religious tradition within which we 
live and timeless values that may aid in securing a religious 
adjustment to the conditions of the modern world, the grow- 
ing disuse of the Bible constitutes a serious problem. Has 
the Bible outlived its usefulness? Is it to be relegated to the 
museum where its wealth of ancient lore is to become the 
object of only an antiquarian interest, apart from the going 
issues and concerns of modern religious living? Or does it 
still have an abiding value for those of our generation who 
are continuing the age-long quest for a view of life and a 
motive for living in terms of those enduring and funda- 
mental values that have been cherished through the ages by 
religious persons? 

Interestingly enough, at the extreme opposite of this tend- 
ency of Protestant Christianity to neglect the Bible is the 
recent insistence on the part of the representatives of the so- 
called "realist" movement in contemporary religious thought 
that we return to the Bible as the supernatural and authori- 
tative revelation of a wholly transcendent God. The crisis 
theology represented by Karl Barth and his followers views 
God as the "totally other," set over against man hopelessly 
involved in the contradictions of his existence. There is no 
hope for man in his utterly undone condition until he is 
rescued from the paradoxes in which he is involved by an 
act of supernatural grace in which the initiative rests wholly 
with God. In this system of thought a central place is given 


to the Word of God in the Bible. From this point of view 
the Bible is supernaturally revealed. As God is radically set 
over against the world of man's empirical experience, so the 
Bible is considered as growing up within the stream of man's 
interaction with his objective world only at the points of 
tension between the temporal and the eternal. It is not, there- 
fore, in any sense a human product of expanding experience 
and culture.^ This point of view is the more significant in 
the light of the fact that its sponsors have come up within 
the tradition of the literary and historical criticism. Never- 
theless, it raises in the sharpest possible manner the funda- 
mental issue as to the nature and origin of the Bible: is it 
the outgrowth of man's normal experience of his objective 
world or is it the result of crises induced in that experience 
by the invasion of the temporal by the eternal? This new 
appeal to the Bible on an authoritative basis accentuates the 
necessity for reexamining anew the known facts concerning 
the relation of the Bible to the social process. Such a view 
also affects profoundly the use of the Bible in current reli- 
gious living. 

It is obvious that the Bible cannot be restored to a position 
of vital influence in modern religious life upon the traditional 
authoritative basis. Undoubtedly biblical research will bring 
to light new data regarding the documents of the Bible and 
the social situations out of which the ideas, practices and 
institutions enshrined in the literature of the Bible arose. 
These findings may be counted upon to modify many conclu- 

* Those who wish to pursue in detail the Barthian view regarding the 
Bible will do well to consult, among others, such sources as Karl Barth, 
Das Wort Gottes und die Theologie ; Die Kirkliche Dogmatik: Die Lehre 
votn Wort Gottes; The Epistle to the Romwis (translated by E. C. 
Hoskyns) ; The Word of God and the Word of Man (translated by 
Douglas Horton) ; Wilhelm Pauck, Karl Barth: Prophet of a New 
Christianity?; and E. E. Aubrey, Present Theological Tendencies, chap. 


sions now generally held among critical scholars. But out 
of these literary and historical studies there is emerging a 
new problem. The time has come when we must proceed 
beyond what is now known concerning the nature and origin 
of the Bible to the problem of the utilization of the Bible 
in modern religious experience. This new problem is funda- 
mentally an educational problem. 

The incalculable contribution of the critical-historical 
movement lies in the fact that it furnishes the ground upon 
which alone the problem of the utilization of the Bible in 
modern religious experience can be worked out. Whatever 
fruitful results may come from the attack upon this new 
problem of utilization, they must be based upon the results 
of the literary and historical movement. The constructive use 
of the Bible in modern religious experience must be not only 
in accord with the known facts concerning the origin and 
nature of the Bible, but must grow directly out of them. 

It is the thesis of the present discussion that the Bible will 
again become real, vital and eflfective only when it is rein- 
stated in the going experience of the continuing religious 
community out of whose earlier experience it had its rise. 
In the Bible, the modern religious person and the modern 
religious community possess a priceless heritage of racial 
experience that throws an illuminating light upon the current 
quest of the human spirit for those fundamental and en- 
during values that support life on its higher spiritual levels 
and that endow life in the modern world with a convincing 
sense of its reality and worth. This quest is a quest of the 
ages. It did not begin with our generation, and it will not 
end with it. We who live in the modern world have not 
begun our religious life de novo, any more than we have 
begun our intellectual, our artistic or our social life de novo. 
It is impossible to tear our experience in the present scene 
out of the tissues of the historical process without mutilating 


it and leaving it dead. If history belongs to us, we also be- 
long to history. To ignore it is to limit needlessly our out- 
look upon reality, to impoverish the resources with which 
we may face the demands of life and to commit ourselves 
to a dilettante superficiality that in the end will only turn to 
bitter disillusionment. That history has an accumulation of 
insights and achievements which are as indispensable for the 
spiritual quest as the inherited body of knowledge and tech- 
niques are for the scientist at work in his laboratory on the 
structure of the atom or the behavior of the cosmic ray. 
Man's spiritual quest that is in part recorded in the Bible is 
one of his wistful approaches to reality, in terms of the 
meanings and values that support his life on this planet, as 
distinguished from his intellectual and aesthetic approaches. 

Moreover, man's early religious concepts and techniques 
are no more crude and naive than his earlier scientific con- 
cepts and techniques. In fact, in the light of the more recent 
findings of science itself, it begins to appear that early and 
even sophisticated modern science, with its emphasis upon 
objective "fact" and "law," has fallen victim to an over- 
simplification and naivete that may constitute one of the 
astonishing phases of man's intellectual history. There are 
even suggestions in the writings of some of the more recent 
scientific thinkers that religion in its fundamental attitudes 
with reference to those aspects of reality that lie beyond the 
tangible has been less naive and superficial than science. 

Be that as it may, it would appear that, far from being 
obsolescent, religion is an irreducible phase of culture 
and that it is as vital a concern of men and women today as 
it has ever been. Indeed, there are beginning to appear indi- 
cations that we may be entering upon a period of synthesis 
in culture in which an essentially religious view of life will 
emerge into a place of primary importance in the modern 
world. It should go without saying that the religion of this 


new phase of culture will not be simply a recovery of the 
religious ideas, techniques and institutions of the past. It 
will find its expression in forms of thought, in procedures 
and in institutional arrangements that will be appropriate to 
the modes of life in the modern world. The religious attitude 
toward life is no more to be identified with its concrete ex- 
pressions in different periods of cultural development than is 
science or art or the political state. The concrete concepts 
and techniques of religion are in every stage of culture the 
instrumentation of religious attitudes. They are the media 
through which the religious attitude finds expression and 
through which it functions. Specific concepts of God, for 
example, like the now discarded concept of cause and effect 
in science, fall into desuetude when they no longer instru- 
ment an advancing and expanding experience. But the reli- 
gious attitude, like the spirit of science and art, is a timeless 
attitude that survives the changing and discarded concrete 
expressions with which from time to time it implements 

The task to which the present discussion sets itself is to 
suggest procedures by which the enduring and timeless 
values embodied in those literary forms that constitute the 
Bible may be abstracted from their concrete historic social 
contexts and made available to modern religious persons for 
utilization as resources for discovering the religious quality 
of their experience in contemporary culture. 

Chapter II: Achieving a Religious Adjust- 
ment to Our World 

The most fruitful approach to an understanding of religion 
is to view it as an affair of persons or social groups. 

Religion is commonly written about and discussed as 
though it were a self-sufficient thing- in-itself. Certain groups 
speak of "getting" religion or of "losing" it. Psychologists 
not infrequently discuss the "religious consciousness" as 
though it were a separate entity dissociated from other forms 
of experience. The historian of religion and the student of 
comparative religion write of the "religion" of a particular 
racial or cultural group, and of "religion" in general. 

From one standpoint this is an entirely legitimate way in 
which to view religion. As an organized form of collective 
behavior, religion, like science, art and politics, constitutes 
a phase of culture that can be observed, identified and de- 
scribed. Religion has corporate aspects, with a more or less 
definite constituency and a definite institutional structure. 
It assumes the form of a social movement involving func- 
tions that serve certain ends and that implement themselves 
with appropriate means. Through long periods of time the 
movement develops a body of organized ideas, beliefs, prac- 
tices, rituals, ceremonies and techniques. Most developed re- 
ligions create a sacred literature. 

But this fact should not be allowed to obscure the still 
more basic consideration that religion is always a way of 
behaving on the part of persons and groups with reference 
to the total world of reality in which they live. It is a way 
of thinking, feeling and acting with reference to certain as- 
pects of that world. That is to say, religion in its operative 



aspects is never an abstraction. Every one of the religions 
of mankind is the religion of a particular people. It is local- 
ized and particularized in terms of the attitudes and be- 
haviors of specific racial and cultural groups in relation to 
the concrete conditions of their physical and social environ- 
ments, as in the case of the Buddhists of China, the Shin- 
toists of Japan, the Mohammedans of Arabia and the Chris- 
tians of the West. People who think of themselves as being 
religious, and who are thought of by others as being reli- 
gious, behave in ways that are as amenable to description 
and analysis as are other characteristic forms of their be- 
havior. To be sure, these religious behaviors assume an end- 
less variety of forms as they occur in one or another of the 
great religious traditions. In order, therefore, to describe the 
religious life of any group, it is necessary to become concrete 
and specific as to the particular ways in which that group 
behaves when it behaves religiously. It is possible, of course, 
to abstract the common elements from the wide variety of 
religious behavior and to attach to them the term religion. 
When this step of abstraction is taken, it is possible to speak 
of the religion of the Orient, the religion of the Occident 
or even of the religion of humanity. But it should always be 
remembered that when religion is so spoken of it is as an 
abstraction removed at varying degrees from the concrete 
and specific behavior of particular persons or cultural groups. 
Religion as it actually appears in human experience is always 
specific and concrete — this way of looking at the world, that 
way of feeling toward it or this way of proceeding in deal- 
ing with those aspects of the total environment with which 
religious behavior is primarily concerned. In this sense reli- 
gion is a quality of experience and is, therefore, better desig- 
nated as religious, as distinguished from religion as des- 
ignating the end-products of that quality of experience — its 


organized beliefs, its institutions, its techniques and its litera- 

What one actually sees when one observes the religious 
behavior of persons and groups are certain objective phe- 
nomena — religious practices and ceremonies, religious insti- 
tutions, formulations of religious beliefs in the form of 
creeds or theological systems, a body of sacred Scripture, 
bodies of religious literature other than the Bible and the 
carrying on of certain functions, such as preaching, religious 
education, work with individuals, missions and programs of 
social action. But the thing that one must not allow to es- 
cape him is that all of these phenomena are in one way or 
another functional with reference to the ends which religious 
persons or groups seek to achieve through them. 

The functional relation of these overt activities to experi- 
ence is, of course, obvious in the case of religious cere- 
monies. Some of them are vividly intentional with reference 
to the ends sought. Others are survival modes of procedure 
whose relation to the ends sought has become obscured or 
whose ends have ceased to exist. But speaking broadly and 
with due allowance for the unconscious imitation of tradi- 
tional practices, it may be said that all of these ceremonies 
are, or at one time were, techniques employed for the ac- 
complishment of certain ends that are involved in the satis- 
faction of human needs. Such needs, as they appear in his- 
torical religion, have been for sustenance, for fertility, for 
success in offensive or defensive warfare, for security, for 
release from the sense of guilt, for access to the forces that 
lie beyond one's self or the immediate resources of the social 
group, for securing some integration of personal or group 
life and for guaranteeing the hope of immortality. 

Thus, among primitive peoples, the Intichiuma ceremonies 

^ This is the distinction which Professor John Dewey has been careful 
to make in his Our Common Faith, chap. i. 


of the Arunta tribes of Central Australia are sacred rites 
designed to increase the fertility of the witchetty-grub, the 
totem of the tribe, thereby increasing the mysterious semi- 
personal, semi-mechanical power of the "mana" in the totem 
available for the life of the tribe. Among the Dieri people of 
southeast Australia a symbolic magical rain ceremony accom- 
panied by a prayer to the ancestral spirits is employed to avert 
drought where rain is particularly necessary to the food sup- 
ply. In West Africa, while their husbands are engaged in 
warfare, the women carry brushes in their hands when they 
dance, accompanying the dramatic act with a chanted prayer 
that in like manner their husbands may sweep their enemies 
ofif the face of the earth. Among the Todas of India, whose 
main dependence for food is upon the milk of the buffalo, 
milking is a ceremony with definite religious meaning, and 
the dairy officials are religiously set apart for their task. 
In old China, the agricultural year was opened by the em- 
peror with an elaborate religious ceremony at the Temple of 
Heaven which included the turning of the first furrow. Festi- 
vals around the world have afforded emotional release asso- 
ciated with the new moon, the turn of the seasons, and the 
successful resolution of the tension of social crises. 

Among the Hebrews, religious ceremonials sustained the 
same functional relations to personal and social needs. 
Among the ancient Hebrews the peace-offering was used to 
give expression to states of religious feeling in connection 
with the more joyous events of their life — the successful 
conclusion of a campaign, relief from famine or pestilence, 
the coronation of a king, the dedication of the temple or 
the visit of a prophet. The sharing of the feast with Jahweh 
was considered as cementing the relation between Jahweh 
and his people and as rendering him well-disposed toward 
them. The burnt-offering, on the other hand, was designed to 
secure the protection of Jahweh in crises of great solemnity — 


imminent danger, hazardous conflict, grave calamity. In later 
Judaism, in addition to the peace-offering and the burnt- 
offering, which by now were generalized and formalized, the 
sin-offering was designed to secure release from the sense 
of guilt from having offended Jahweh through ignorance. 
Still another, the guilt-offering, was designed to secure re- 
lease from the sense of guilt through having committed sins 
of intention. The bloody sacrifices may be said to have served 
three functions : the removal of the sense of guilt, the puri- 
fication of physical uncleanness and the consecration of per- 
sons and things for sacred uses. 

Christianity, likewise, has developed a body of techniques 
for meeting fundamental spiritual needs. The whole massive 
drama of redemption, with its incarnation in the birth of 
Jesus, the death of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection of 
Jesus, forms the background of a particularly rich and elabo- 
rate group of ceremonies the texture of which is formed 
by the intricate weaving together of drama, pageantry, hymns, 
carols, masses, oratorios, prayers, architecture and detailed 
symbolism. Its functional relation to experience is obviously 
to secure release from the sense of sin, to afford some guar- 
antee of the realization of the hope of personal immortality, 
to establish and reestablish from time to time rapport with 
those spiritual resources that lie beyond one's self or the 
immediate social fellowship in the larger reaches of total 
reality and to achieve some sense of security in the midst 
of a changing and hazardous world. Against this massive 
background of the total drama of redemption, particular cere- 
monies serve as techniques for attaining more immediate and 
detailed ends. Baptism, for example, symbolizes, both for the 
individual and for the religious community, the washing 
away of the sins of the past, and, as a burial and a resurrec- 
tion, marks a definite point in time and a definite crisis in 
experience by which the old self dies and a new self is born. 


The Lord's Supper is a means of reviving in vivid and per- 
petual memory the suffering and death of Jesus and of a 
searching self-examination. As a communal feast, it height- 
ens the sense of the unity of the Christian community as 
a fellowship and of the Christian community with its risen 
Lord. Among Roman Catholics, it assumes the form of the 
solemn mass during which the wafer and the wine are trans- 
formed by a miracle into the actual body and blood of the 
Redeemer, thus perpetuating the primitive idea that in the 
sacrificial meal the worshippers actually eat the god. So, also, 
prayer is a technique for securing rapport with that behavior 
of the universe personally conceived of as God, for bringing 
the ends the Christian seeks into vivid consciousness and for 
criticizing and organizing them, for exposing the inmost 
thoughts and intents of the self to an understanding coun- 
selor and for establishing help-gaining relations with that 
behavior of the U^niverse which is God. 

As techniques of end-seeking activity, these ceremonies 
of religion are comparable in the relation which they sustain 
as means to ends to techniques that are employed in other 
fields of experience. With the growth of scientific insight 
and control, many of these techniques have been shifted from 
the realm of the specifically religious to the realm of applied 
science, as in the case of modern medicine, the technologies 
of agriculture and production, and mental hygiene. As a 
matter of fact, most of the modern scientific procedures were 
gradually differentiated from religious practices. In a funda- 
mental sense, religion is the mother of all the processes and 
products that constitute modern culture, whether science, art 
or philosophy. In primitive society, life was undifferentiated 
and fell wholly within the scope of religion. But as society 
and culture have advanced, the various processes that support 
human life and secure the satisfaction of its needs have 
become highly differentiated. Each of these processes has 


built up a body of knowledge and theory and techniques in 
its own right. In the course of their differentiation they have 
tended to become separated from religion and have, on that 
account, become secularized. But the fact that must not be 
lost sight of is that, in their earlier stages, these ceremonies 
and rituals were techniques for securing the satisfaction of 
human needs through such methods as were then available 
to man. 

But there are other objective deposits of religious thought 
and activity than the overt behaviors that have been de- 
scribed. Among these are written creeds that represent the 
intellectual reflection of the religious group upon the nature 
of the world and man, upon the nature of God and his rela- 
tion to the universe and upon the manifold and ramified 
problems of religious experience. Around these formula- 
tions of creed have grown up a vast theological literature and 
theological institutions where these traditions are taught. 
Among these deposits we also find bodies of sacred literature, 
such as the Bible, the result, as we shall presently see, of the 
long process of religious experience extending over many 
centuries and comprehending many levels of advancing cul- 
ture. In these deposits are to be found collections of hymns 
and prayers, besides a vast volume of religious literature 
which includes biography, homilies, guides to devotion, dis- 
cussions of religious problems in relation to science and 
philosophy, fiction, religious news and propaganda. 

To these deposits must be added religious institutions. 
Religion, like other specialized interests and functions of so- 
ciety, has built about itself institutional structures which af- 
ford a social frame for religious thought and activity and 
which provide the social arrangements through which the 
group expresses its religious attitudes, thought, collective 
purposes and programs of action. The skyline of nearly every 
community in the West is pierced by the spires and domes 




of its churches and synagogues. The church as a collective 
social organization is an intricate network of specialized or- 
ganizations devoted to the furtherance of specialized func- 
tions, such as preaching, religious education, personal coun- 
seling, finance, missions, social service and propaganda. 

But back of these objective and observable manifestations 
of religion lie the subjective attitudes, emotions, ideas and 
ideals of religious persons and groups. These also are ways 
of behaving with reference to the world in which persons 
live. They are ways of thinking, ways of feeling, w'ays of 
valuing. These are, after all, the important behaviors of 
religious persons. They are the soil out of which rituals, lit- 
erature, theology and institutions grow. They constitute the 
substance and abiding core of the religious life with reference 
to which all else is relevant. In this realm of attitudes and 
values it would appear that there is less variation than in 
the exceedingly manifold forms which the expression of 
these attitudes assumes. It is probably not far from the truth 
to suggest that, at bottom, religious persons the world over, 
and through all time, have been attempting to accomplish 
much the sam.e ends. Within different physical environments 
and different cultural traditions, and under different creative 
leaders, they have utilized different forms, different ideolo- 
gies and different procedures. In our own religious tradition 
modernists and fundamentalists hold very different theologi- 
cal views and use very different forms and procedures in 
seeking the fulfilment of their spiritual aspirations ; but both 
are, in the final analysis, seeking much the same ends in the 
practical issues of living. The students of comparative reli- 
gion have come to feel that amidst the widely variant forms 
of religious belief and practice among ethnic groups the basic 
process is essentially the same, and that its concrete and spe- 
cific patterns are the outgrowth of the practical activities as 
determined by the physical and social environment within 


which these groups have developed their culture. It is this 
insight that has made it possible to say that "religions are 
many, but religion is one." 

It is thus seen that religion is rooted in the process by 
which man acquires a working adjustment to his world of 
reality for the purposes of practical living. It is man's sus- 
tained attempt to have life, and to have it abundantly. It is 
a mistaken approach to religion to think of it as primarily an 
intellectualistic affair, consisting, as the earlier observers of 
religion supposed, of a body of beliefs concerning super- 
natural powers. In view of the prominence of beliefs in reli- 
gion it is not strange that such an early observation should 
have been made. The impressive volume of statement of 
creed and theological discussion might easily give this im- 
pression. But to fix attention upon creed and theology is to 
seize upon only one of the manifestations of a much deeper 
and more significant aspect of religious experience. In the 
same manner, earlier observers of religion identified it with 
emotion. In view of the fact that emotion plays such a large 
part in the overt manifestations of the religious attitude, it 
is not to be wondered at that the emotions, like the beliefs 
of religion, should have been identified as the differentiating 
characteristic of religious experience. But, as in the case of 
intellectual beliefs, emotions are only a surface manifestation 
of a much deeper-lying substratum of religious experience. 
The more mature psychological analysis of religious phe- 
nomena discloses the fact that religion is an end-seeking ac- 
tivity, involving the most fundamental and comprehending 
values by which men live. The profound emotions, like reflec- 
tive thought, grow out of the involvement of these values 
in stressful situations where the end-seeking activity is frus- 
trated or held in suspense in the presence of uncertain issues. 

This adjustment, as we now know, is the matrix from 
which issues all experience of whatever sort. It is the source 


of all our attitudes, ideas, emotions, values, institutions and 
techniques. None of them can be understood or accounted for 
in and of itself. They must be interpreted and judged in rela- 
tion to their ultimate source — living experience with the 
world, as human beings achieve a progressive adjustment to 
its objects and processes in the interest of a more effective 
and satisfying mode of life. 

This is clear when we consider products of culture other 
than religious. As an example, let us take mathematics, be- 
cause it is one of the instruments upon which science so 
largely depends and because it seems to be at the farthest 
remove from religion. Mathematics is very old, and has 
reached a very high degree of elaboration and organization — 
so much so that it ranks as one of the most complex and 
complete of the modern sciences. It has many branches, such 
as arithmetic, algebra, calculus, geometry, analytic geometry 
and differential geometry. Each of these branches has a well 
organized subject-matter and constitutes a discipline in it- 
self. A goodly company of experts is engaged in researches 
in this field. A great number of highly trained specialists is 
engaged in the profession of teaching mathematics. For some 
centuries mathematics has been regarded as one of the pri- 
mary disciplines in education from the elementary school to 
the graduate departments of universities. Considering its 
high state of development and perfection of organization as 
an end-product of culture, it is little wonder that mathematics 
has for long been considered as an end in itself and as an 
essential in the discipline of a well educated person. But this 
impressive end-product of culture can only be understood in 
terms of its origins and social functioning. When we inquire 
into the origin and function of mathematics it appears in a 
very different and much more significant light. It then ap- 
pears as an instrument of culture which man has evolved for 
dealing effectively with the quantitative aspects of his world. 


Man early discovered these quantitative behaviors of his 
world with which he had to come to terms. He experienced 
time in series — days, months, seasons, years. Objects had to 
be counted in the process of adding to and taking from. Ob- 
jects have magnitude, weight and velocity that have to be 
measured. From these simple beginnings man discovered that 
the most complex processes of nature and of society, such as 
the constitution and behavior of matter, the distribution of 
population, the birth-rate and life expectancies, were reducible 
to quantitative formulas. Even the structure of the atom 
can only be dealt with by mathematical formulas. The move- 
ments of the galaxies conform to intricate mathematical 
structures. The concept of relativity can be stated only in 
mathematical equations. The concept of "law" has been dis- 
placed by the mathematical probability curve, with probable 
errors that can be calculated with great precision. It is to the 
necessity for having a technique to deal with these quantita- 
tive aspects of reality that we owe mathematics. Its true na- 
ture can be perceived only in the light of its cultural origin 
and its continued social functioning. 

Or, let us take art, because it lies close to religious experi- 
ence in that it falls within the realm of appreciation. Art, 
like mathematics, presents in its cumulative form a vast and 
impressive body of material — music, painting, sculpture, ar- 
chitecture, literature, the drama. It, too, has developed its 
refined techniques and canons of criticism. It, too, presents 
the same temptation to regard it as an end in itself. Many 
of its devotees affirm that it serves no ulterior end but in 
its purest form exists only for art's sake. But we can under- 
stand the essential nature of art only by viewing it in its 
functional relation to the experience of human beings in their 
adjustment to the world of reality. The historic forms of art, 
from the crude drawing on the shoulderblades of animals to 
Rembrandt, from the primitive pipe to the Fifth Symphony 


of Beethoven, from the unhewn altar to the Cathedral of 
Chartres, are records of man's appreciation of aspects of his 
world and experience as interpreted in terms of the emo- 
tions. All great art, as Tolstoy, Craven and Dewey have 
shown, has its roots in the crucial issues of living, as these 
are embodied in the collective experience of a group, set in 
the context of the culture of a given period. When art be- 
comes dissociated from these fundamental life processes it 
becomes sophisticated, decorative, superficial and devoid of 
significance. Gothic arches are the expression of the aspira- 
tions of the culture that gave them birth, and they lose their 
meaning when torn from the social tissue of that culture. In 
Goethe's Faust the spirit of the German people becomes ar- 
ticulate. The soul of Italy speaks in the frescoes of Michel- 
angelo. The fact that all great art is self -communicating and 
self -validating derives from its rootage in the common as- 
pirations, the common fears and the common struggles of 

Too much emphasis cannot be placed upon the active and 
dynamic character of man's adjustment to his world of total 
reality. It is anything but a static relation, as is sometimes 
superficially supposed. Man approaches his world with in- 
herited impulses, needs and desires. Some of these are indis- 
pensable to his survival; others are indispensable to the ful- 
filment of his life. He must have food. He must have shelter. 
He must have warmth. He must have companionship. But he 
cannot live by bread or shelter or warmth or gregariousness 
alone. His equipment as a human being has set within him 
expansive desires and needs that demand the higher satis- 
factions that can come only from intellectual insight into 
his own nature and the nature of his world, from a sense 
of values that give meaning and worth and dignity to his 
career on this planet, from disciplined and ennobled emo- 
tions and from creativeness in achievins; ends that he fore- 


sees and that evoke his supreme devotion. Neither is his ad- 
justment an adjustment to a passive and static world of 
reality. Our truest and deepest insight reveals to us a dynamic 
and creative universe which has produced persons and in 
which the achievement of values appears to be the highest 
attainment of conscious life. In such a universe of reality, 
a creative God meets the creative human spirit at the point 
where man and his objective world reciprocally react upon 
each other. 

In the light of its functional relation to personal and social 
experience, it is clear that religion is a phase of man's total 
culture. It is one of man's approaches to reality, in terms of 
the fundamental and enduring values by which he lives, as 
distinguished from science and philosophy in terms of sys- 
tems of ideas, or from art in terms of the emotions. Only 
from this point of view is it possible to account for the fact 
that religious ideas, practices and institutions derive their 
concrete and specific form and content directly from the 
practical interests and functions of the cultural group, so 
that these ideas and practices differ as one passes from one 
cultural group to another, and change within the same cul- 
tural group from time to time as its practical interests and 
functions change. Only so can one account for the reciprocal 
influence of the religious attitudes of a people upon their 
total culture. ]\Iassive and convincing as is the evidence of 
history and comparative religion, it is not more convincing 
than the changes that are taking place in contemporary Chris- 
tianity in the reconstruction of its ideology regarding the 
nature of God, the structure and behavior of the universe, 
the natural and the supernatural, the nature of man, the 
nature of sin and salvation and the nature of the Bible — to- 
gether with the reconstruction of its organizational struc- 
tures — against the background of change in our contem- 
porary culture. But amidst all these changes of specific form 


and content of religious thought and behavior, the central 
core of the religious attitudes abides unchanging — the view- 
ing of every experience in terms of its relation to that total 
organization of ultimate and comprehending values that in its 
creative aspect is God. 

This, then, sets the task of the modern religious person 
and the modern religious group. It is to achieve a religious 
adjustment to the real and contemporary world. It is not to 
recover and to reproduce the concrete and specific forms of a 
past religious experience. Much less is it to fashion the spirit- 
ual aspirations and achievements of living men into the in- 
herited molds of thought, feeling and institutions. It is, 
rather, through facing creatively the issues of life in the 
contemporary social scene, to discover the religious meaning 
of our experience in the modern world, to weigh it and judge 
it in the light of the highest spiritual values of the past and 
of the demands of the present situation, to analyze it for its 
spiritual possibilities and to reconstruct it in terms of the 
highest and most enduring values we possess. It is not the 
function of those upon whom the responsibility of religious 
leadership rests to teach the end-products of a past religious 
experience. It is, rather, to assist growing persons to achieve 
a religious quality of life by facing creatively the issues of 
their own personal and social experience in the present scene 
through the utilization of such incalculably valuable resources 
as historical religious experience affords. One of the most 
priceless of these end-products of historical religious experi- 
ence is the Bible, with its wealth of religious insight, its en- 
during religious values, its religous achievements and its 
creative religious personalities that in its literature have 
found superb expression. 

Chapter III: The Significance of the 

The functional relation which religion sustains to per- 
sonal and social experience has far-reaching implications re- 
garding the significance of the present. As a phase of the 
total adjustment which persons and groups of persons make 
to their world of reality, it is in the present that religion 
functions if it functions at all. Consequently, before we pro- 
ceed to the consideration of the Bible as a resource for 
achieving a religious adjustment to our world, it will be well 
for us to explore the significance of the present. 

The concept of the present as the locus of religious experi- 
ence is in sharp contrast with two older and still widely preva- 
lent views. The first of these views is that religion is pri- 
marily concerned with life after death. According to this 
view, which so largely dominated the Middle Ages and to a 
very considerable extent prevailed in the Reformation and 
post-Reformation periods, the contemporary world is looked 
upon as evil. It lies in darkness. It is under the rule of the 
flesh and the devil. Religion is a way of escape from that 
world, to be accomplished by withdrawal or renunciation, or 
by some form of redemption through the operation of 
miraculous forces that are not resident in the world of man's 
present and empirical experience but invading it from some 
supernatural realm. The initiative in the redemptive process 
lies wholly outside man's experience. Man has fallen from 
his original state of perfection and has lost the power of self- 
recovery. The more he commits himself to the influence of 
his temporal and immediate world, the more deeply he sinks 
into its lost estate. 



In this view, redemptive religion as traditionally under- 
stood is set over against the present world. The resources 
resident in the contemporary world are not to be utilized in 
the furtherance and fulfilment of life, but are inimical to it. 
The present world is to be renounced as evil. Its corrupting 
and devastating influence is to be overcome. It is like a putre- 
fying body from which one is to be delivered. Salvation as- 
sumes the form of a rescue from a doomed temporal order 
that is destined in time to be overwhelmed in disaster. Tradi- 
tional redemptive religion has tended, therefore, to focus 
attention upon a future life in another order of being, to be 
assumed after death has released one from the present evil 
world. The present world is, therefore, to be endured for the 
time being and, as far as possible with the help of supernatu- 
ral grace, to be overcome. This view gave birth to the dra- 
matic imagery of a future heaven where all will be peace and 
happiness in the midst of an ideal order of life from which 
every trace of evil will be absent. That will be life indeed. 
That will be the life eternal. 

This other-worldly view of religion was further height- 
ened by the conviction that the present order was temporary 
and would soon pass away. Time and eternity were set off 
in radical antithesis to each other. The early Christians held 
to the belief that the end of the present world was imminent 
and that their real life in the hereafter was presently to begin. 
Jesus appears to have expected that the end of the present 
world would occur during the lifetime of those to whom he 
spoke. So vivid and intense was this expectation among cer- 
tain groups of the early Christians that they thought it not 
worth while to give themselves further to their normal pur- 
suits. They abandoned their vocations in some instances and 
gave themselves to preparation and waiting for their transla- 
tion. Throughout the centuries groups of religious people 
have seized upon this millennial hope. Some have even set the 


day for the second coming of the Lord and have gone to wait 
for the event on high places, garbed in robes suitable for 
their heavenly hegira. Repeated disappointments have not 
proved sufficient deterrents to quench this expectation. Not 
only was the present order impermanent and presently to 
pass away, but the shadow of unreality lay upon it. Only the 
eternal was real, and only the eternal was the home of the 

The extreme lengths to which this other-worldly view of 
religion in Christian thought was carried is evidenced by the 
monastic life of the Middle Ages. The highest attainment of 
the religious life was reached by those who withdrew from 
the evil and perishing world and took refuge in the monas- 
tic orders. Those who adopted this mode of life deliberately 
severed the ties that bound them to the present order through 
the three-fold vow of poverty, celibacy and obedience to the 
spiritual superior. Those who entered the monastery gave 
themselves to meditation, prayer and the mortification of 
the flesh. Monasticism was a complete repudiation of the 
world of present experience. Even the influence of the secu- 
lar Renaissance in southern Europe, while reacting from such 
an other-worldly view of life, was not sufficient to overcome 
it. Although the secular emphasis of the Renaissance pro- 
foundly modified the general outlook of the Reformation 
upon the relations of the Christian to the social, political and 
economic order, the Reformation on the whole still continued 
the supreme emphasis upon the future life. 

Yet another extreme form which the renunciation of the 
present world assumed was the radical mysticism of the 
Middle Ages. The mystics developed psychological tech- 
niques of withdrawal from the present world by a series of 
steps that led from the suppression of physical sensation 
through an intermediate stage in which all differences in 
thought disappeared to the final state of rapture in which the 


soul, divested of all earthly and temporal impressions, found 
itself in immediate contemplation of God as pure spirit. 

The second of these traditional views is that religion is 
concerned primarily with the recovery and reproduction of 
the religious experience of the past. Strangely enough, this 
attempt to recover the past has often been associated histori- 
cally with an other-worldly view of religion. In modern 
times, however, it survives notwithstanding a lessening em- 
phasis upon other-worldiness. 

Perhaps the chief contributing factor to this backward- 
looking view of religion has been a supernaturalistic and au- 
thoritarian view of the Bible. Around the Bible have grown 
up theories of inspiration which did not originally attach to 
the literature that constitutes the Bible. These theories range 
all the way from belief in the absolute inerrancy and self- 
consistency of the Bible to a belief in the inspiration and au- 
thority of its "essential" portions that allows room for the 
fallibility of the human medium through which the word of 
God was revealed. Consequently, its doctrines, its institu- 
tions and its practices have a finality about them that pre- 
cludes change in the light of a forward-moving experience. 
Being supernaturally and authoritatively given, they are per- 
fect and therefore immutable. Nothing may be added to them 
and nothing may be taken away. They are the true realities 
with reference to which concrete experiences are passing, im- 
perfect and unreal shadows. They constitute the deposit of 
faith once for all delivered to the saints and therefore to be 
jealously guarded and handed down without alteration from 
one generation to another. These revelations are datable. 
They belong to the past. They are valid for all time to come. 
The responsibility of the Christian in any succeeding age is 
to conform to the letter as well as to the spirit of the pat- 
tern revealed in the mount. The business of ministers, reli- 
gious educators and missionaries is to reproduce this deposit 


of faith in current experience with punctilious exactness, 
however foreign it may seem to be. Among the more con- 
servative reHgious groups, to doubt or to raise questions as 
to the vaHdity or historicity of any of the parts of the Bible 
is sin. 

Recent years, however, have witnessed a gradual decay of 
this view of the Bible among the better informed adherents 
of Christianity. Literary and historical criticism have ren- 
dered such a view untenable, though it persists with surpris- 
ing tenacity among great masses of the Christian community. 
It is no longer possible, in the light of what is known about 
the Bible, to close one's eyes to certain inconsistencies which 
it contains, to certain of the indefensible types of behavior 
which it records with approval and to the unhistorical char- 
acter of some of its portions. But even many who have be- 
come fully aware of these characteristics of certain parts of 
the Bible still cling to a supernatural and authoritarian view 
of it. To such, it appears that the Bible contains the record 
of a permanently valid religious experience which it is their 
responsibility to reproduce in its essential character within 
the frame of current experience. Under the influence of these 
ideas, ministers generally have considered the content of their 
"message" as given. They feel under obligation to start with 
the Bible and through illustration and ''application" to trans- 
plant these inherited experiences from the remote past into 
the modern scene. A survey of the curricula of religious edu- 
cation shows beyond peradventure of doubt that the business 
of religious education has been conceived to be the recovery 
and reproduction of these ancient forms of religious experi- 
ence in the lives of growing persons whose experience is cast 
in the molds of the modern world. The missionary has for 
the most part taken with him to non-Christian peoples a 
given and authoritative "message" calculated to replace, and 
in many instances to destroy, the religious ideas and atti- 


tudes that are already operative in the Hves of those to whom 
he has been "sent." By and large, this is the prevailing 
temper of Christian thought in most of the churches. These 
approaches are not concerned primarily with assisting grow- 
ing persons to achieve a religious adjustment to their own 
real and present world. They are concerned, on the one hand, 
with reproducing a given, static and authoritative religion 
as revealed in the Bible, or, on the other hand, with transmit- 
ting the end-products of a past religious experience. 

In this general attitude toward past experience, religion 
has not differed as much from other aspects of culture as one 
might suppose. Law, until very recently, has proceeded for 
the most part on the basis of precedent. Only recently has 
education begun to face its task creatively and in terms of 
the demands of the present social situation. At its beginning 
there was a vital sharing of experience in making necessary 
adjustments to the objects and processes that surrounded 
primitive men. They had no traditions to transmit. But with 
the invention of writing and with the accumulation of the 
results of previous experience, tradition grew apace into im- 
pressive bodies of knowledge, and techniques were transmitted 
from the mature to the immature. Age lent authority to these 
traditions. Throughout its entire subsequent career until very 
recent years, education has been conceived as a process of 
passing on from generation to generation the end-products of 
culture and of molding the young into the established be- 
haviors and institutions of society. In this respect, education 
has been on the whole as external and authoritative as reli- 
gion, though in somewhat different ways. Through the long 
centuries the hand of the past has been heavy upon us. The 
gaze of society has been turned wistfully toward the reced- 
ing past with its insights and achievements about which time 
and distance have cast a halo. For the vast majority of men 
the golden age has lain in the past, so little have we believed 


in the worthfulness and creativeness of our present experi- 
ence. Secular as well as religious thought has clung to an 
ideal past. The idea of descent from some pristine perfection 
has been native to immature human nature. Without such 
a general outlook upon life the religious doctrine of a fall 
would doubtless have been impossible. 

In contrast with these traditional views is the emergent 
concept of the essential worth and creativeness of present ex- 
perience which is growing in the modern world. The fixation 
of attention upon contemporary life which characterized the 
Renaissance is developing into a permanent and fruitful 
mode of thought in the modern world. Empirical scientific 
thought with its experimental procedures has revealed the 
possibilities of the immediate world and has built up in us 
a confidence in man's ability to achieve some effective control 
of its processes. History has led us to see that life and culture 
constitute a process of development that is moving on from 
the past into a future of unprecedented possibilities of 
achievement. We are begining to discover ourselves as part 
of that real and present world. Gradually we are losing some 
of our nostalgia for the past, that appears to critical histori- 
cal research less glamorous than once it did. At the same 
time we are less disposed to defer the goods of life to some 
remote and indefinite future, the texture of which is woven 
out of the dreams and imagination of frustrated hopes. Be- 
tween living in a remote past and an imaginative future, the 
reality and worth of the present had all but escaped us. Per- 
haps the current reaction toward the present is, like all reac- 
tions, extreme. It is part of the present temper to discount 
history. Nor is it to be wondered at that, in the face of the 
openness and tentativeness of the present with its outlook 
upon an unpredictable future without the accustomed abso- 
lutes of thought, there should be a temporary reaction among 
timorous souls toward supernaturalism and authority, such 


as is to be seen in the Barthian movement. We have not yet 
built up the intellectual and emotional attitudes necessary to 
life in a world of change where effective operative values 
take the place of absolutes. But at any rate we have at last 
discovered the present as the moment in which life goes on — 
the present that is the summation and outworking of the past 
and the matrix in which the destinies of a realistic and em- 
pirical future are taking form. In such a context of thought, 
the present is of worth in its own right. It is the supreme 
moment of man's career upon this planet, whatever his past 
has been or his future may be. 

This view regarding the reality and worth of the present 
finds abundant support in current philosophy. According to 
this philosophic view, the locus of reality is in the present. 
As the late Professor Mead has convincingly maintained, 
there is no reality outside the present.-"^ The only reality that 
we know or can possibly know exists in the here and now. 

In contrast with this view, it has generally been supposed 
that the past exists as something "out there" waiting to be 
discovered, as though it has temporal, if not spatial, exten- 
sion. On the whole, historians have proceeded on this as- 
sumption. More recent and profound insight, however, re- 
veals the fact that there is no "out there" as an entity to 
be explored. With the lapse of time the past ceases to exist 
in its own right. The past exists only as it survives in the 
living present — in its monuments, in its documents, in its 
deposits of bone and artifact, in social behaviors that per- 
sist as habits. The remains of a molar tooth, a fragment of a 
skull and a femur bone existed as present facts at the time 
of their discovery in the soil of Java. From this tooth, this 
fragment of skull and this bone, together with other sur- 
viving evidences concerning the conditions of the life of 

^ George Herbert Mead, in his Carus lectures, The Philosophy of the 


his kind, the anthropologist was able to "reconstruct" the 
man-beast body, the prognathous jaw and the sloping fore- 
head of Pithecanthropus Erectus, on the shadowy border- 
land between the animal and the human orders of life. The 
Codex Sinaitictis was a present fact when it was discovered 
by Tischendorf in the monastery of St. Catherine at Mount 
Sinai. The Rosetta Stone was a present fact when it was 
found by Boussard in the mud of the trenches at Fort Saint- 
Julien. The letters, memoranda, certificates of marriage, and 
other official documents regarding Abraham Lincoln are facts 
that exist in the present in archives. And so it is with refer- 
ence to every historical event, personage or movement that 
with every other such event, personage or movement consti- 
tutes the subject-matter of history. They are not "out there" 
in some temporal extension of the present. They are part of 
the warp and woof of the living present, so limited in its ex- 
tension that, while we speak of it, it has ceased to exist. It 
is out of these survivals of the past that exist in the present 
that we "reconstruct" the past and make it live again in our 

But what is even more significant, our reconstruction of 
the past is always in terms of our present experience. Strive 
as he may for scientific objectivity, the historian "reads" the 
survivals of the past in the light of the assumptions, values 
and interests that are operative in our current social experi- 
ence, just as the scientist "reads" the data before him as they 
appear in the frame of scientific assumptions.^ In a very 
real sense the past as re-created is always to a considerable 
degree a projection backwards of the present. How far- 
reaching are the implications of this fact for the Bible will 
appear when we consider the development of certain parts 

'The current emphasis of the historian upon objectivity in handling his 
materials is a beautiful illustration of the effect of the scientific method 
upon the historian's point of view. 


of the Old Testament, notably the early narrative materials 
of the Judaic and Ephraimite sources of the ninth and eighth 
centuries B. C, the legislative writings of the Deuteronomists 
in the late eighth century B. C, and the liturgical writings 
of the priests in the post-Exilic period.^ It will also appear 
when we consider the manner in which the gospels grew in 
the first century of the Christian movement as well as Ephe- 
sians and the Pastoral Epistles and the writings ascribed to 
Peter at the end of the first century and toward the middle 
of the second century. 

In the same manner, the future exists only as it is implicit 
in the present. As in the case of the past, there is no future 
"out there" as a temporal or spatial extension of the present. 
The future exists only in terms of the consequents that are 
emergent from the antecedents of the present. So extremely 
narrow is the moment of the present, sharp as a razor's edge, 
that, while we speak of it, it has moved into its own potential 
future. But the future, as such, has no reality or existence 
until it has become that swiftly passing moment which is 
the present. It is characteristic of human nature that it should 
run forward in imagination to "construct" a future which it 
represents to itself as real. Religion has shared in this an- 
ticipatory quality of present experience. Like those who have 
created their Utopias, religion has built its Messianic hope 
and its dreams of a Holy City coming down from God out 
of heaven. It thinks and speaks of these imaginary constructs 
which it embroiders with the rich and colorful materials 
of the imagination as though they existed in reality as con- 
crete events in time and space to which we are moving, up- 
borne by the stream of time. It is as though they only awaited 
our coming in order for us to enjoy their promised blessings. 

' The character and origin of the Judaic, Ephraimite, Deuteronomic and 
Priestly sources in Genesis-to-Kings are dealt with on pp. 72) \ 85-91. For 
the sake of convenience they are frequently designated in the text by the 
conventional symbols J, E, D and P. 


As in the case of the reconstruction of the past, these 
constructs of the future are projections of values and 
wishes that have their rootage in the current social scene, ' 
This was true, as we shall see in Chapter VI, of the Messianic 
hope. That hope was the projection into the future of the 
frustrated ideals and aspirations of a people who found them- 
selves members of a defeatist movement and engulfed in na- 
tional disaster. Finding it impossible to realize their hopes 
in the then-present situation, they wistfully projected the 
realization of their hopes into the future. This is the social 
and psychological basis of all apocalypticism, whether social 
or religious. When we turn to the New Testament, we find 
the same phenomenon occurring in the life of the early 
Christians. Finding themselves face to face with defeat in 
a hostile society, they took refuge in an apocalyptic future. 
The Book of Revelation, with its idyllic imagery of a blessed 
future, could not have arisen out of any other social situa- 
tion. Notwithstanding its apocalytic origin, the vast majority 
of Christians have looked upon the picture of heaven there 
presented as a really existing and localized place and condi- 
tion toward which the destinies of the believer moved. To the 
uncritical mind, the Bible offers something more than a 
promise of a blessed future beyond the reach of sin and 
suffering; it supplies a geography of a heavenly country with 
temporal and spatial extensions beyond time into eternity. 

This view of the reality and worth of the present is further 
supported by the conception that the present is essentially 
creative. According to this view, the creative forces of the 
universe are as operative in our own personal and social 
experience as they have been in any period of the world's 
history. The work of creation is not a fait accompli. It is a 
continuous process, never ended, never complete. This is true 
of the changing physical universe, in whose vastly extended 
frame worlds and systems of worlds are dissolving and form- 


ing. Creation is a continuing, and therefore a present, reality. 
Man, when his career on this planet is set in its vast temporal 
frame, is incredibly recent, immature and still in the mak- 
ing. This is also true of his ideas, his institutions and his 
techniques, Man's intellectual and cultural life can be under- 
stood only as a genetic process, a becoming. In a convincing 
manner Professor Whitehead has developed the thesis that 
reality itself is best conceived in its essential nature as 

In this process in which reality comes into being continu- 
ously in the ever-passing moment of the present, new knowl- 
edge in the form of fresh meanings arises out of our experi- 
ence in an ever-changing world. In it, new modes of life 
are being generated and new functions which get themselves 
expressed and carried on. In it, new values by which life is 
supported and motivated are generated. Not only "in the be- 
ginning," but here and now in the forward movement of 
current experience, God is continuously at work creating. In 
this creative process modern man is coming to feel that he 
has a part, in so far as his action is guided by intelligence, 
toward the fulfilment of higher human, social and spiritual 
values. Something like this may have been the insight of the 
prophet Habakkuk who, in the presence of the confusing and 
difficult issues of his time, prayed that God would revive his 
work in the midst of the years as he had worked of old, 
only to come at last to the conviction that God was continu- 
ing a work in his day that it was difficult to believe though 
it were told one. Subsequent historic judgment, rendered in 
the light of the perspective of centuries, unhesitatingly af- 
firms that the period in which Habakkuk lived and which at 
the time seemed so devoid of the creative activity of God, 
was after all the greatest creative period in the history of 
Hebrew religion, if not of any religion. An age that to its 

* W. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality. 


living participants seems sterile in its problems and issues and 
lacking in the creative presence of God, may be seen, when 
viewed in the perspective of history, to have been a signally 
creative one in which God was significantly at work. This 
may be true of our generation in which such fundamental 
and swift intellectual and social changes are taking place. 

We do well to remind ourselves of a fact that it is very 
easy to overlook in our thought of the relation of the past 
to the present. That fact is that all the records and achieve- 
ments of the past were the outgrowth of what was once a 
present experience. The situations which living men then 
faced were just as uncertain and confusing as are the pres- 
ent issues which we face. In the presence of those situations 
they were just as hesitant and uncertain of their way as 
we are in the presence of the complex and frustrating prob- 
lems of our present involved society. The outcomes which 
they reached were just as tentative as are our own. History 
warps our impressions of the outcomes and achievements of 
the remote past. Because time has washed away the concrete 
details of the social situation, the end-points of these events 
appear to be much more definite and clear-cut than they really 
were. So, in time, our outcomes and achievements will be- 
come the outcomes and achievements of the past. Others will 
ponder over the end-products of our experience as we now 
ponder over the achievements and outcomes of those who 
have gone before us. Looking at our experience through 
the long perspective of time, our successors will regard our 
decisions and acts as more definite than they are to us who 
are groping our way through the issues that confront us. The 
decision of the Supreme Court on the gold issue in February 
of 1935 may be regarded as a turning-point in American 
thought regarding the Constitution. But we who have lived 
through the event know the welter of discussion which pre- 
ceded the decision, and that when it was at last handed down 


it was a five-to-four decision in which one vote would have 
turned American thought in the opposite direction. Any num- 
ber of decisions in regard to formulations of creed or the 
inclusion or exclusion of books from the Bible have turned 
upon a balance no less delicate. In time, our own experience 
will become history and will acquire for others the same halo 
and prestige of antiquity. If we doubt the value of our own 
experience, others who come after us will not. We shall never 
be able to understand the meaning or the worth of the prod- 
ucts of historic forms of experience until we see them as the 
products of what was at one time present experience. They 
were of the substance of the present — real, valid, self- 

Chapter IV: The Bible a Resource for 
Religious Living 

When we approach the task of the religious person in terms 
of achieving a reHgious adjustment to the present world 
rather than in terms of reproducing the religious experience 
of the past, the function of the Bible is set in a new light. 
It ceases to be an authoritative norm and becomes a resource 
of incalculable value for current religious living. 

The religious person does not face the situations of the 
modern world alone or de novo. He is a member of a continu- 
ing religious community. That community involves a vast 
company of contemporary religious persons. They represent, 
not only a wide variety of personal experience, but many 
racial and cultural backgrounds. He shares his personal ex- 
perience with that community. His ideas, his emotional atti- 
tudes and his values are conditioned by the shared ideas, 
emotional attitudes and values of the community. He is a 
participant in a social movement that, however diverse its 
range of thought and feeling, is nevertheless a corporate 

The contemporary religious community, out of its experi- 
ence with the modern world, is creating new ideas, new 
values and new procedures. Like the company of scientists 
and the company of artists in their respective fields, it lives 
and thinks and creates on the frontiers of religious experi- 
ence. Its outlook is upon a new world with undiscovered pos- 
sibilities which are yet to be explored and upon things hoped 
for that have yet to be clothed with reality. The present com- 
pany of religious persons stands at the end of a long marked 



trail, but not at the end of the journey. The chief exploits of 
its heroes, its saints and its martyrs are yet to be chronicled. 

But the religious community is a continuing community. 
It has a long history extending through many eventful cen- 
turies. It includes in its fellowship, not only a great company 
of like-minded contemporaries, but a greater company of 
men and women who have set eager, if sometimes uncertain, 
feet upon the pathway of an eternal quest for the more 
abundant life. Each generation of its advancing column has 
died in the faith with wistful eyes fixed upon the distant goal. 
They represent many levels of culture and many types of 
experience. Each generation in its turn, like our own is doing, 
broke a new path through an unexplored and uncharted 
world. Each generation pursued its uncertain way in what 
for it was a new world with changes as great as our own. 
Each faced issues as complex and baffling as those which we 
face. Each arrived at solutions as tentative as those which 
fill us with uncertainty. 

This, as was pointed out in the preceding chapter, seems 
not to be the case when we view their life at a great distance. 
But when we take a nearer view of the situations which they 
faced and of the outcomes at which they arrived, as we shall 
attempt to do in the chapters that immediately follow, we 
see how great is the illusion that arises from the refraction of 
time. Each of these generations wrought out its life in the 
midst of conflict and social change. So profound were these 
changes that they shattered the inherited patterns of the con- 
ceptions held by the men of these generations about God and 
the world and forced them to adopt new modes of thought 
and behavior. Only by consulting our own confusion and dis- 
may when we feel the foundations of our inherited ideas 
and values crumbling under the pressure of contemporary so- 
cial change can we understand such a cry as we find in the 
Psalms : 


If the foundations be destroyed, 
What can the righteous do?^ 

Only in our own moods of doubt as to the issues of religious 
values in contemporary society can we taste the bitterness of 
pessimism in the cup of Elijah when he felt that the ideals of 
the Jahweh religion were being engulfed by the rising tide of 
Baalistic culture : 

I have been very jealous for the Lord of hosts; for the 
Israelites have forsaken the covenant with thee, thrown down 
thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword ; and I, even 
I only, am left, and they are seeking to take away my life.^ 

Only as we contemplate with trepidation the operation of 
social forces that threaten the very existence of civilization 
in our day, can we understand the torn soul of the patriot 
Jeremiah as he watched with bated breath the swift and 
certain doom of the organized society that bore the Jahweh 
tradition. It is when certain of our own company resist the 
inevitable changes in current religion in response to cultural 
changes and turn fundamentalist, that we can understand the 
reactionary protest of the Rechabites who, as representatives 
of primitive desert culture, set themselves against the en- 
croaching agricultural and city civilization of Canaan by 
taking a vow that they would sow no crops and drink no 
wine from the planted vineyards and that they would live 
only in tents. Even so they were forced by the inevitability 
of events to move into the city.^ How extended was the de- 
bate or how close was the vote in the council at Jerusalem 
that determined whether a freer or more restricted policy 
was to determine the future of the Christian movement we 
shall never know. We have no stenographic record of the 

* Psa. 11:3 (American Standard Version). 
*I Kings 19:10. 
'Jer. 35:5-11. 


The Bible grew out of the life of this continuing commu- 
nity. It records the changing and stressful situations which 
its successive generations faced. It discloses the struggles 
through which they passed and the outcomes at which they 
arrived. It enshrines and perpetuates the memory of its great 
personalities and leaders — Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Paul, to- 
gether with a great company of saints, prophets, sages and 
martyrs who live for all time on its immortal pages. On a 
scale of vast historic magnitude it records the growth and 
refinement of spiritual insights, religious concepts and tech- 
niques for gaining the ends of religious living. 

Although the Bible is the product of the experience of 
the continuing religious community, it has through the for- 
tunes of history become dissociated from the life of the com- 
munity. Traditional religious thought has assigned to it a 
supernatural origin and clothed it with external and formal 
authority. It has made of the Bible a revelation antecedent 
to the events in the stressful and expanding life of the com- 
munity. By so doing it has made the Bible a remote, abstract 
and unreal body of literature. As a detached and authorita- 
tive book it has, as we saw in the opening chapter, a waning 
influence in the living religious community as well as in the 
environing culture of our time. If the Bible is to regain its 
vitality as the Living Word in the modern world, it must 
again find its place as a living inheritance of the struggles 
and achievements of the continuing religious community. 

The incalculable value of the Bible lies in the fact that 
it is a record of the religious experience of men and women 
who in successive generations constitute a religious move- 
ment. As history it would have great value for the present 
members of the movement and the inheritors of its tradi- 
tions. But the Bible is not history. It is a series of deposits 
of the experience of people who viewed the events of their 
life in terms of the relation of these events to those funda- 


mental and comprehending values which constitute the 
ground of the religious life. Every fragment of the Bible, 
both in the Old and New Testaments, is a precipitate of ex- 
perience. These fragments record the thought, the attitudes 
and the behaviors of the then members of the movement in 
the presence of very concrete and very specific social situa- 
tions. These deposits are the sources which the historian uses 
in reconstructing the history of the movement. But the his- 
tory which results from the use of these sources is a very 
different thing from what we have In our Bible. 

When one stands in the presence of these deposits of a his- 
torical experience in the Bible, it is much as though one 
descended among the strata in the Grand Canyon that have 
been laid bare and carved by the erosion of many centuries. 
Here lie exposed to view the remains of evolving pre-human 
life through six hundred million years of geologic time. On 
the Vishnu schist, fifteen hundred million years old, into 
which the Colorado River has cut its channel, there have been 
laid down as many as nine strata that still remain. The 
earliest of these is six hundred million years old. Each of 
these strata has embedded in it the deposits of once-living 
organisms — the earliest remains of plant life, shells, seaweed, 
fish scales, corals, tracks of land animals, primitive cone- 
bearing plants, ferns, insect wings, tracks of primitive rep- 
tiles or amphibians, seashells, sponges. These deposits are not 
history. They are the sources which the geologist uses in 
writing the history of pre-human life. By the effects of radio- 
activity, he is able to calculate the age of the Vishnu schist 
upon which these strata were laid down. By noting the alter- 
nation of strata bearing land and marine fossils, he is able 
to determine that the land surface has been alternately ele- 
vated above and submerged below sea level. By comparing 
the fossil remains of the various strata with corresponding 
deposits elsewhere on the earth's surface, he is able to de- 


scribe with considerable accuracy the type of developing life 
at each stage of its long evolution. His history is a rational 
account of the sequence of events. The remains he uses are 
not history; they are the deposits of a past life. 

In precisely the same manner, when one threads his way 
through the long centuries of the evolving religious life that 
has left its deposits in the Bible, he sees massive cultural 
strata. In these several strata he finds the literary deposits 
of the religious experience of the people whose life was lived 
within those culture media — myth, folklore, fragments of 
old war songs like the Song of Deborah, chronicles of kings, 
temple annals, liturgical hymns and prayers, the sermons of 
the prophets, legislation, priestly prescriptions, the sayings of 
wise men, the letters of Paul, the gospels, apocalypses. By 
examining these deposits and comparing them with other 
data of comparative religion, the historian is able to recon- 
struct a dependable history of the Hebrew-Christian religious 
movement. But these remains that have been preserved in 
biblical literature are not history; they are the deposits of a 
past religious life. It is as impossible to understand or ap- 
praise these deposits except in the light of the culture media 
of which they were precipitates as it is to interpret the fossil 
remains except in the light of the geological strata in which 
they were laid down. 

In the same way our own religious experience is laying 
down its deposits in the cultural stratum of the twentieth cen- 
tury. Those who come after us in the ongoing religious com- 
munity will sometime examine the precipitates of our ideas, 
our attitudes and our behaviors in our surviving creeds, our 
literature and our institutions. If they cannot reconstruct the 
details of our social situation — our science, our technology 
and our economic and political experiments — they can never 
understand or appreciate our religious experience. Only as 
they get the feel of the intellectual and social changes of the 


twentieth century will they be able to understand our em- 
pirical and functional methods of religious thought, the Lay- 
man's Report, our fundamentalist-liberalist controversies, the 
Dayton trial in the name of religion, the editorials in the 
religious press, Buchmanism, Karl Barth or our efforts to 
reunite a sectarian church. 

It is because the Bible is a record of the experience of the 
continuing religious community that it is of inestimable 
value as a resource for current religious living. The Bible 
makes it possible for us to see and feel that our own current 
religious experience in meeting the demands of the present 
social situation is the growing point of a significant histori- 
cal process. We do not face the demands of the modern world 
in terms of spiritual values de novo. Our religious life is the 
operative moment in a long historical movement. We may 
well be at once sobered and exhilarated by the thought that 
the living present that is our life is the locus of reality in an 
evolving religious movement. Its past exists only as it sur- 
vives in our present experience. It is chiefly the Bible as the 
carrier of the precipitates of the past that makes it possible 
for that past to live again. If we did not possess these price- 
less records, the past of the great tradition in which we live 
would be shrouded in mist and darkness, brooded over by 
silence and death. Thus it turns out that the living and con- 
tinuing community that has set our task as religious persons 
in the modern world has also given us in its Bible a vast 
fund of experience in helping us to discover the religious 
possibilities of our world. The deep of the experience of the 
past calls across the centuries to the deep of our own experi- 
ence. The scientist, the philosopher and the artist would be set 
adrift in the modern world if they had no background of 
cumulative experience against which to carry on their work. 
So would we be set adrift in attempting to achieve a reli- 


gioiis adjustment to our world were it not for the light which 
centuries of religious living throw upon our problem. 

As we shall see in Chapter XII, much of the religious ex- 
perience of the remote past, at least in its concrete forms, is 
irrelevant to the specific issues of living in the modern world. 
Much of it, as the survey of the developing culture of the 
Hebrews in Chapter V and of the early Christian movement 
in Chapters VII and VIII will show, is strikingly relevant in 
certain fundamental aspects. Nevertheless, underneath the 
concrete and changing forms which the past experience of the 
continuing community assumed is the timeless quest of the 
human spirit for the more abundant life. The continuing 
community has carried forward the accumulation of insights, 
skills and growing values which have emerged out of this 
quest. The function of this cumulative fund of experience 
is to help us better to interpret our own situations, to ana- 
lyze them for their factors and possibilities and to execute 
purposes concerning them that will further the fulfilment of 
life on its higher spiritual levels. 

In addition to the origin in experience of the various parts 
of the Bible, we must remind ourselves of the part which 
the experience of the continuing religious community has had 
in the collection and organization of these fragments into 
a body of sacred literature. This influence is first observable 
in the placement of emphasis and the coloration of interpreta- 
tion which one finds in the earliest collections of ancient 
sources in the Judaic, Ephraimite, Deuteronomic, and 
Priestly documents that were later fused into that part of 
our Bible which comprises the books of Genesis-to-Kings. 
Nowhere in literature is to be found more obvious and con- 
vincing evidence of the influence of the interests and points 
of view of an editor in the selection and omission of mate- 
rials, or of the light in which he sets those which he selects. 

In time, these earlier collections were gathered together 


into larger collections, such as the Law, the Prophets and 
the Other Writings. Such a classification of the books of the 
Old Testament, cutting across as it does the genetic order of 
their development, was itself an expression of the estimate 
of the relative value of the books included in each of the 
groups. The books of the Law were assigned the position 
of greatest worth and authority. The books of the Prophets 
were assigned second place and the Other Writings were 
given the least rank of all. This arrangement was a value 
judgment of the late development of Hebrew culture, and 
reversed the order of historical origin which, as we shall 
presently see, was the Prophets and the Law. The collections 
themselves and their order was determined by the use to 
which these collections were put in the religious community. 
It is of great significance that not until the end of the first 
century A. D. did these collections assume a relative fixity 
that could be thought of as a canon of sacred Scripture. Such 
a final inclusion of books in the canon was preceded by much 
discussion and difference of opinion as to which books were 
of such sacred character as to require ablution after handling 
them. During all the preceding centuries the religion of these 
writings had been to the Hebrew community quite informal 
and functional rather than authoritative. 

The collection of the books of the New Testament fol- 
lowed the same functional process. In the earliest period of 
the Christian community the religious life developed with- 
out reference to anything that corresponded to the Bible in 
the sense in which we now think of the Bible, except the 
Jewish writings, some of which are included in the collection 
which we call the Old Testament. Such religious literature as 
existed — the letters of Paul addressed to the churches which 
he had planted and the memoirs of the acts and sayings of 
Jesus — existed as separate fragments. They were cherished 
in the affectionate memories of those who knew Paul or had 


heard of Jesus' acts and teachings from the Hps of living 
men who had seen and heard him. But there was no New 
Testament in the sense of the later Christian centuries. Pres- 
ently, however, as the Christian community moved in time 
farther and farther away from Jesus and Paul as living per- 
sons, the epistles and the gospels began to be used in the 
assemblies of the Christians. Here and there collections began 
to be made of the epistles and the gospels. In these collections 
the gospels sustained to the epistles much the same relation 
which the Law sustained to the Prophets. The value judg- 
ment of the Christian community placed the gospels first in 
its esteem, and they so appear in the order which they 
occupy in our New Testament. 

It was not until 367 A. D., however, that Athanasius in- 
cluded in his Festal Letter the twenty-seven books which we 
use as properly belonging to the New Testament. Meantime 
there was much discussion in the community as to what 
books should be included in the canon and what books should 
be excluded. It is of great significance that then, and long 
after, different sections of the church had different canons, 
each listing being determined by the special interests and 
particular points of view of these sections. It was not until 
the Council of Carthage in 397 A. D. that the issue was 
finally settled for the Western Church. Nor was the issue 
finally settled for the entire church until the end of the 
seventh century — in 691 A. D. to be exact. One may 
gather how tentative some of these judgments of the Chris- 
tian community were when it is recalled that some of the 
books that are included in our New Testament narrowly 
missed being excluded, while others that were finally omitted 
narrowly missed being included. Even long after the canon 
was determined discussion continued regarding the propriety 
of the inclusion of certain books in the Bible, as in the case 


of the Song of Songs in the Old Testament, or the Epistle 
of James, which Luther considered an "epistle of straw." 

Thus the process of canonization was a gradual and a 
selective process. But all selective processes are determined 
by preferential attention, interests, needs and points of view 
that grow out of the practical experience of persons and 
groups. Selection is a functional process, determined by use 
and a sense of value. Moreover, beyond the process of selec- 
tion by which the fragments of literature were gathered into 
collections which later were organized into a canon of Holy 
Scripture was the idea itself of the need of having a canon. 
The presence of such a sense of need marks a change in atti- 
tude. This change was a movement away from the immediate 
and vital origin of the literature that grew up out of the ex- 
perience of the community toward a body of literature that 
is dissociated from the experience that gave it birth, and that 
carries with it a quality that is supernatural, final and author- 

When the Bible is placed back in the life of the community 
to which it owes its origin and in which it should function, , 
the experience which it records becomes a resource to he | » \) 
used for the stimulation, the release and the enrichment of ■ ^ 
present religious experience — not for its regimentation 
through authority or precedent that inhibits thought and pre- 
vents a fresh and creative response to the demands of the 
present social situation. The difference between these two 
ways of using the Bible is continental. The utilization of the 
Bible as a resource grows directly out of its origin and nature 
as a record of past religious experience. It also rests upon 
the true and creative function of historical experience in the 
interpretation, appraisal and reconstruction of current reli- 
gious experience. The authoritative and normative use of the 
Bible rests upon later theological dogmas that were foreign 
to the known origin and early character of the literature 


that constitutes the Old and New Testaments. These dogmas, 
later imposed upon the Bible, have distorted its true char- 
acter and betrayed us into a misinterpretation and misuse of 

It thus appears that only by restoring the Bible to its 
genetic and functional place in the continuing religious com- 
munity can its fullest usefulness and influence be restored. 
It grew out of the life of that living community, face to 
face with the changing demands of a changing culture. It 
will find its essential function in modern religious experience 
when its priceless deposits of a past religious experience are 
used in releasing and giving continuity and guidance to reli- 
tgious experience in the living present in which alone the 
/religious community exists. It will then again become the 
Living Word. 

The relation of the Bible to the continuing community 
furnishes the basis for the principles of its utilization by 
religious persons in the modern world. The elaboration of 
these principles will occupy the last five chapters of this dis- 
cussion. However, before we undertake the elaboration of 
these principles, it will be well for us to examine the evolving 
culture of the Hebrews and the developing life of the Chris- 
tian movement in the Mediterranean world, and to see how 
the literature of the Old and New Testaments grew directly 
out of the life of the continuing community. This we shall 
undertake to do in the chapters that immediately follow. 

Chapter V: The Cultural Development 
of the Hebrews 

Let us now turn to the Bible itself in order to see how the 
various parts of its literature were the direct and immediate 
outgrowth of the developing religious life of the continuing 
community. In no extant literature is there more convincing 
evidence of the functional way in which the content and 
pattern of religious concepts, practices and institutions grew 
directly out of the practical experiences of the people. 
Neither is there more convincing evidence of the functional 
way in which religious ideas and values exercise a reciprocal 
and reconstructive influence upon the life of a people. In no 
extant literature is there a more striking illustration of the 
fact that religion is a phase of culture than is to be found in 
the religious and cultural development of the Hebrews and 
of the early Christian movement. 

Neither is there anywhere to be found a more impressive 
illustration of the manner in which the cumulative and logi- 
cally organized form which the end-products of a past reli- 
gious experience assume tends to obscure the genetic process 
out of which these products grew, than in both the Old and 
the New Testaments. So profoundly is this true that the 
commonly accepted view of the Old Testament that rested 
upon an uncritical reading of it as it appears in its canonical 
form has led to a misunderstanding of the nature and history 
of the religion of the Hebrews. The "common sense" reading 
of the books of the Old Testament in their canonical order, 
for example, has led to the orthodox assumption that the 
general order of their historic sequence is the Law and the 
Prophets. As we shall see, however, the throwing down of 




the component parts of this Hterature into their genetic 
order gives a very different sequence from that of the canon- 
ical order. While the Song of Deborah, the Covenant Code 
and certain ritualistic and aphoristic elements in Genesis-to- 
Kings that are not now easily identifiable are very old, and 
while, as is generally believed, the J document took form in 
the ninth century, it may be said that the general sequence of 
the literature as we now have it was from the Prophets to 
the Law.^ So also, the Book of Genesis, which stands first in 
the canon and purports to give a history of the beginnings 
that is continuous with the subsequent unfolding of events 
in the career of the "chosen people," took its final form, as 
a matter of fact, at the hands of priests after the second 
capture of Jerusalem, in the sixth century B. C. It is a com- 
posite book, representing three strata, the oldest of which 
could not have antedated the middle of the ninth century 
B. C. Its chief historical significance lies in the light which 
it throws upon the religious concepts and spiritual outlook 
of the Hebrew community after the collapse of the national 
state, as these attitudes are reflected through the medium of 
the interpretation of surviving folk-lore and literary frag- 

Let us, therefore, reconstruct in such bold outlines as will 
serve our present purpose the historic experience of the He- 
brews in the light of the present status of Old Testament 

^ Old Testament studies are at present in a fluid state, due to recent 
archeological discoveries and a fresh examination of the Old Testament 
documents themselves in the light of sociological processes. This new 
evidence casts considerable doubt upon certain phases of the conventional 
higher critical conclusions. It is quite possible that these discoveries and 
interpretations may lead to a somewhat different picture of the cultural 
and religious development of the Hebrews. Illustrations of studies point- 
ing in this direction are to be found in Louis Wallis, God and the Social 
Process, and W. C. Graham and H. G. May, Culture and Consciettce, 
University of Chicago Press. 


research. With the Hebrews, the rehgious quality of Hfe was 
so characteristic as to set them apart in history as a people 
who possessed a genius for religion. This religious quality 
of their life arose from the fact that they viewed the events 
of their ordinary and natural experience in dealing with their 
world in terms of the relation of these events to an organized 
set of values which they identified with Jahweh. 

Viewing their history through the literature of the Old 
Testament as it appears under critical analysis, one sees tliat 
the culture and religion of the Hebrews were the result of 
the confluence of two great racial and cultural streams that 
took place on that strip of highlands and valleys on the 
eastern shore of the Mediterranean which we know as Pales- 

Speaking broadly, one may say that one of these streams 
of race, culture and religion in its initial form consisted of 
a group of primitive desert clansmen whose general habitat 
was to the south and east of Canaan. They were nomads 
with a pastoral economy, such as one may see in the Arabian 
desert to this day. Their social organization was tribal and 
primitive, such as may still be found in remote parts of the 
world where life has been untouched by the impact of civili- 
zation. Its tribal bond rested upon blood-kinship and is, 
therefore, to be distinguished from feudal or civilized so- 
cieties which are based upon property or territory. It was, 
consequently, of an entirely different order from that of our 
own society. In order to understand its ideas, beliefs, stand- 
ards of conduct and social arrangements it is necessary for 
us to reorient ourselves completely from a civilized to a 

* This is, of course, an oversimplification of Hebrew origins. A more 
detailed account would need to include at least three periods when groups 
whose descendants made up the Hebrew people came into Palestine — the 
Hyksos period, the Amarna period and the Philistine period. There may 
even be some doubt as to whether the earliest entrants were Jahwists. 


primitive order of culture.^ Their property, which consisted 
chiefly of flocks and herds, was communal, belonging to the 
kinship group rather than to the individual. These clansmen 
dwelt in tents which they moved about from one location to 
another in search of better pasture with the changing of the 
seasons. As in primitive societies in general, the individual 
was subordinated to the group and his behavior was closely 
regulated by its mores. Morality was also tribal, the sense of 
obligation being limited to the kinship group, whether the 
clan, the tribe or the folk. 

These primitive desert clansmen were undoubtedly ani- 
mists. Even in the latest of the sources from which the 
stories of the early experience of the Hebrews were com- 
piled there is an interesting evidence of the survival of ani- 
mism. In the priestly regulation it is prescribed that in the 
event of death in a tent an uncovered vessel is unclean.* 
Quite aside from any specific surviving evidence in the 
sources themselves, this is a reasonably safe assumption in 
view of the common primitive religion which was character- 
istic of the general culture of which they were a part.^ From 
evidence in the sources it is clear that they were polytheists. 

* This is what Mr. L. H. Morgan had to do when he was called upon to 
defend certain property rights of the Iroquois Indians in the courts. To 
his surprise he found that in order to establish intimate relations with the 
Iroquois it was necessary for him to be initiated by a ritual of adoption, 
a fictitious birth. He discovered that the line of descent was through the 
mother ; that the members of the clan were brothers and sisters, and that 
marriage was exogamous; that discipline was administered by the uncle; 
that property was communal, etc. This led him to inquire of missionaries 
and others having relations with primitives whether they had met with 
similar phenomena in remote parts of the world, with the result that tribal 
forms of social organization were discovered to be of a different order 
from that of civilized peoples. 

*Num. 19:14, 15 (P source). 

^ A clear and detailed picture of the general culture and religion of this 
general area is to be found in W. C. Graham and H. G. May, Culture and 
Conscience. See also W. C. Graham, The Prophets and Israel's Culture. 


Laban complained that Jacob had stolen his gods.^ One, 
Micah, in the time of the judges had a house of teraphim 
(family gods) and set up a religious establishment with one 
of his sons as priestJ The fact that the prohibition of poly- 
theism is placed at the head of the Ten Commandments is 
evidence of its prevalence possibly as late as the date of the 
literary source that was incorporated into the Ephraimite 
document.^ It is equally clear from the documents that they 
worshipped idols. The prohibition of idolatry in the second 
commandment is evidence of its prevalence possibly as late 
as the date when this source was incorporated into the 
Ephraimite document.^ Rachel hid in the camel's saddle the 
teraphim stolen from Laban. ^^ When Saul sought to kill 
David, Michal, David's wife, let him down through a win- 
dow and put a family god (teraphim) shaped like a hu- 
man body, in David's bed to deceive Saul's messengers. ^^ 
Upon the insistence of the people, Aaron is represented as 
fashioning an image and as proclaiming, "Here is your god, 
O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt !"^^ 
Some scholars have concluded on the basis of evidence in 
some of the documents of the Old Testament that the first 
contact which the Hebrews had with Jahweh was when they 
came into relations with the Kenites, a friendly non-Hebrew 
tribe, after their sojourn in the pasturelands of Goshen. 
Others question whether the invading Hebrew clansmen 
were Jahwists when they entered Canaan. At any rate, ac- 

•Gen. 31:30 (E source). 

'Judges 17:5. 

"Exod. 20:3 (E source). 

" Exod. 20:4-6 (E source). 

^°Gen. 31:19-35 (E source). 

"I Sam. 19:11-17. The word "teraphim" is plural in form but is con- 
strued both as plural and singular. It has been suggested that in the lat- 
ter the plural is the "plural of majesty." 

"Exod. 32:1-7 (E source). 


cording to the Ephraimite source the Hebrews were still 
worshipping other gods when they entered into a covenant 
with the Kenites, at which time Jethro the Kenite and father- 
in-law of Moses functioned as a priest of Jahweh/^ The 
Judaic source represents the Hebrews as worshipping Jah- 
weh from the beginning.^^ The latest source of all, P, belong- 
ing to the period of the Exile, apparently seeks to reconcile 
the two older and variant accounts by suggesting that prior 
to their contact with the Kenites the Hebrews worshipped 
Jahweh but did not know his name, calling him El Shaddai. 
In any case, the religion of Jahweh came to be identified 
with the culture of the Hebrew people who developed from 
the strain of these invading clansmen under the influence of 
their new social environment. The root idea of the Jahweh 
religion and culture was that of "mishpat," which appears in 
our English translation as "justice." But the concept of 
mishpat apparently has a much larger and more fundamental 
connotation than the English translation gives it. It consti- 
tutes the core and organizing concept of the entire culture 
complex of the Jahwists.^^ While the concept may have been 
primitive in its origins, it was far from being primitive in 
the developed culture and religion of the later Hebrews. 
Under the developing culture of the Hebrews in Canaan it 
flowered into a lofty conception of social justice based upon 

"Exod. 2:15-3:14; 18:10-12. 

" This would lend itself to a rather natural explanation if one accepts 
the thesis of Louis Wallis that the Judaic source was later than the 
Ephraimite source. In that case J, being more primitive and more closely 
identified with the traditions of the Jahweh cult than E, would naturally 
take this position. The priority of J and E is a matter of debate. The 
orthodox critical view is that J is older than E. For arguments in favor 
of the priority of E, see Louis Wallis, God and the Social Process; for 
the priority of J, see S. R. Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the 
Old Testament. 

^^ For the most recent significant discussion of "mishpat," see Louis 
Wallis, God and the Social Process, esp. chap. vi. 


brotherhood. The working out of the concept in the Old 
Testament is largely in the field of economic interests and 
processes. But it is much more than an economic concept. 
It involves the total complex of the developing Hebrew cul- 
ture among those who held to the Jahwist ideals. 

Such property as the Jahwist Hebrews possessed was 
held in common and was inalienable. It was not, therefore, 
subject to sale or purchase. As a consequence, while they 
might seize the property of conquered peoples and reduce 
them to slavery, it was impossible for them to make slaves 
of any of their own group or to appropriate their property. 
For this reason it was contrary to the mishpat principle for 
any Hebrew to take interest from any other Hebrew. 

As a result of the operation of this concept, the Hebrews 
developed a two-class society. On the one hand, all those 
who were of Hebrew descent constituted an aristocracy of 
birth. On the other hand, there was a non-Hebrew slave 
class. In the more primitive form of Hebrew culture there 
could be no middle class. 

The second of these main streams of race, culture and reli- 
gion consisted of the Amorites, who inhabited the central 
portion of Canaan. In contrast with the invading Hebrews, 
the Amorites lived a settled life. They were an agricultural 
and commercial people. The tillable land and what it pro- 
duced constituted the basic commodities of exchange and the 
source of their wealth. These exchangeable commodities gave 
rise to commerce and to the institution of private property. 
The land itself constituted private property and was subject 
to sale and purchase. As in all societies in which the institu- 
tion of private property exists, there gradually grew up a 
concentration of wealth in the hands of the powerful few. 
These constituted a landed aristocracy. In Amorite society 
these powerful landed aristocrats were known as "baals" or 


"lords." Canaan was traversed by trade routes, connecting 
with the peoples to the north and south. 

The social organization of the Amorites, in contrast with 
the invading Hebrews, was based upon territory and the 
possession of private wealth. Their society was civilized as 
distinguished from tribal. At the extreme right was the aris- 
tocracy of wealth consisting of the baals. At the extreme 
left was a class of slaves. The slave class was constituted 
from two sources : on the one hand were those who were 
taken in conquest and reduced to slavery after they had been 
dispossessed of their property as the spoils of war; on the 
other hand were those from among the Amorites themselves 
who had become dispossessed of their property through debt. 
Between the baals on the right and the slaves on the left 
was a middle, or bourgeois, class, which consisted of the 
smaller landowners and tradesmen. This class, in turn, had 
its right and left wings, with those who were in possession 
of considerable property on the right, and on the left those 
who through economic misfortune lived on the margin of 
security and tended to sink deeper and deeper into a property- 
less proletariat, ending in slavery. Thus, as is characteristic 
of societies which rest upon an economy of private property, 
there was a tendency for the middle class to disappear and 
for the chasm between the baals and the dispossessed to 

As in the case of the Hebrews, the religion of the Amor- 
ites derived its basic concepts and structures from the prac- 
tical interests and activities of the people. It was a phase 
of their culture. In its basic characteristics it was an agri- 
cultural religion. Its gods were "Baalim," thus reflecting 
the organization and structure of the Amorite society. The 
functions of the Baalim were concerned with the planting, 
the cultivation, and the harvesting of crops and vineyards. 

As a settled people devoted to the pursuits of agriculture 


and trade, the Amorites dwelt in substantial houses attached 
to the land. As wealth increased through profit on exchange 
and through interest on loans, the members of the aristocracy 
built themselves elaborate houses of the more substantial and 
costly materials — palaces of hewn stone with elaborate deco- 
rative details. These houses were filled with luxurious ap- 
pointments — beds of ivory, the finest textiles, perfumes and 
precious metals from distant lands. Luxury and lavish dis- 
play stood over in sharp contrast against the misery of the 
dispossessed. The behavior of the newly rich in Amorite 
society was true to type. Moreover, the necessity for protec- 
tion among a people with portable wealth gave rise to forti- 
fied walled cities — strongholds scattered through the Amorite 

It was inevitable, of course, that these two opposing types 
of culture and religion should clash when the more primitive 
nomadic Hebrews invaded the land of the settled and civilized 
Amorites. ^^ If the conquest of the Amorites had been vigor- 
ous, swift and conclusive, as the later compilers of the folk- 
lore and earlier surviving literary documents represent it to 
have been, one might have expected the assimilation of the 
Amorite culture and its Baal religion to the Hebrew culture 
and its Jahweh religion, as usually happens under such 
conditions. But the internal evidence of the documents shows 
that the invasion was gradual and indecisive. The hold of 
the invading Hebrews was upon the highlands, and even 
tl^at was tentative. As a result, the two cultures existed side 
by side, each influencing the other, and always in potential 
or actual conflict. Under the conditions of a gradual and in- 

" Such a brief statement lends itself, of course, to oversimplification. 
While the roots of the mishpat ideal were primitive, the fully developed 
mishpat concept appears to have been the end-result of the interaction of 
these two types of culture. The clash was not as clear-cut as one might 
suppose if one assumed that the mishpat ideal was imported fully de- 


decisive invasion, the great mass of the Hebrews was as- 
similated in both its cuUure and its religion to the culture 
and religion of the Amorites. Such areas of conflict as re- 
mained between the two types of culture and religion served 
to sharpen each. 

The important result for the history of religion is that the 
Hebrew religion, in its truest and historic character, was the 
outgrowth of the protest of the Jahweh cult with its evolv- 
ing mishpat ideals against the swamping of the Hebrew 
Jahwistic culture and religion by the Amorite Baalistic cul- 
ture and religion. A critical examination of the sources 
themselves discloses conclusive evidence that the masses of 
the Hebrew folk were assimilated to an admixture of the 
Jahweh and Baahstic cults. The movement of the prophets 
was a minority movement. In its unequal conflict with Baal- 
istic culture it shortly became a defeatist movement. 

The invading Hebrews first established themselves in the 
hill country of the central part of Canaan. They represented 
the purest mass of the Hebrew stock. It was only later that 
the southern tribes were differentiated from this central 
group. In the southern extension of the Hebrew folk there 
was a much greater admixture of non-Hebrew peoples. The 
population mixture of the southern tribes included the 
Kenites, to whom some scholars believe the Hebrew tribes 
were indebted for their Jahweh religion. The peoples, who 
united with the southern extension of the Hebrew folk were 
themselves closer to the desert and the desert culture than 
those who settled in the Amorite highlands. These differences 
in texture of population and social and religious outlook 
between the northern and the southern groups exercised pro- 
found influences upon their national development. The in- 
terests of the larger northern body and of the smaller south- 
ern body were different, as was the quality of their culture 
and the cast of their religious views. The northern tribes 


were much more exposed to and influenced by the Baalistic 
culture of the Amorites. The southern tribes remained 
throughout much more primitive and conservative, and de- 
voted to the ideals of the Jahweh culture and the Jahweh 

Notwithstanding these differences in interest and outlook, 
monarchy was achieved for a time through the union of the 
northern and southern tribes under Saul, David and Solo- 
mon. Saul, who was from the North, was succeeded by 
David, a resourceful political leader and powerful military 
figure from the South. Largely through an aggressive mili- 
tary policy against the surrounding peoples, a device fre- 
quently used in achieving national solidarity, he consolidated 
and extended the monarchy. He further unified the loyalties 
of the northern and southern tribes by establishing his capital 
at Jerusalem, a border town between the territories of the 
two constituencies. By state marriages and skilful diplomacy 
he established friendly relations with the Amorites. Some- 
thing of the rapprochement with the Amorites is indicated 
by the fact that as early as David's defeat of the Philistines 
the term "Baal" was used, instead of that of Jahweh, to 
celebrate the victory in designating the place Baal-perazim.^"^ 
David established a standing army under the captaincy of 
Benaiah ben Jehoiada.^^ He also established a system of 
forced labor under the supervision of Adoniram ben Abda.^^ 
Under David monarchy was achieved and the prestige of the 
unified Hebrew folk was greatly enhanced. The person of 
David as a symbol of the monarchy extended far beyond the 
borders of the kingdom. As time passed David became ideal- 
ized as the head of the Hebrew theocracy and survived in 

"II Sam. 5:20. 

"II Sam. 8:18; 20:23; 23:20-23. 

"II Sam. 20:23, 24. The term mus, which is rendered "tribute" or 
"levy" in the English translations, is better rendered "man subject to 
task-work." See Louis Wallis, God and the Social Process, p. 148. 


the memory of the later defeated Israel as the symbol of its 
hopes for a Utopian society. 

David was succeeded by his son, Solomon. Solomon ruled 
as a typical oriental despot. He maintained and extended the 
standing army which his father had established, as he did 
the system of forced labor.^'^ He undertook large building 
operations in Jerusalem. Many walled cities, the first in the 
history of Hebrew culture, were built as centers of govern- 
ment in various sections of the monarchy. Foreign trade 
was established, with ships plying between Israel's port cities 
and "Ophir" and "Tarshish." Gold was imported in great 
quantities, together with spices, ivory and fine linen from 
distant shores. Ostentatious luxury characterized the court 
and the wealthy aristocracy. The rich lords reposed upon 
beds of ivory and displayed on their persons fine raiment 
and ornaments. Wealth became concentrated in the hands of 
the landed nobility. The rich became richer and the poor 
became poorer. The ranks of the dispossessed were recruited 
from those who filtered down from the disappearing middle 
class. There was a shift of population from the rural sections 
to the cities. An urban-rural conflict arose. The cost of main- 
taining the luxurious court and of government building 
operations rested heavily upon the people. Taxes mounted. 
As a result of the importation of gold, silver became de- 
valued, and prices soared.^^ 

The social soil was ready for revolt. Insurrections began 

to appear among the subject peoples. Jeroboam, an Ephraim- 

ite,^^ led a revolt against Solomon, and as a result he was 

forced to flee temporarily to Egj^pt.^^ This revolt was only 

the precursor of a more fundamental revolution. This move- 

*! Kings 4:4-6; 5:13, 14- 
^I Kings 10:27. 

^This is the term by which the northern tribes were designated, as 
distinguished from Judah as representing the southern tribes. 
^I Kings II :26, 40. 


ment of revolt broke in full force when Solomon was suc- 
ceeded by his son, Rehoboam. Jeroboam was recalled from 
his exile in Egypt to lead the northern tribes in protest. The 
Ephraimites complained to Rehoboam : "Your father made 
our yoke galling. Now, therefore, lighten the galling service 
of your father and the burdensome yoke he laid upon us, 
and we will serve you." To their protest the young king, 
following the counsel of his younger advisers, replied : "My 
father made your yoke heax^^, but I will add to your yoke : 
my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you 
with scorpion stings." Thereupon the tension between the 
North and the South, which had long been strained, reached 
the breaking point. The revolt of the northern tribes was 
complete and overwhelming. "What share have we in 
David?" they cried. "To your tents, O Israel; now see to 
thine own house, O David !"-^ From this event, which fell at 
approximately 930 B. C, the Hebrews were divided eco- 
nomically, socially and religiously into two national groups 
— Ephraim to the north and Judah to the south. 

For two centuries the leadership in national development 
was taken by Ephraim. What is even more significant for 
the understanding of the religion of the Hebrews, it was in 
the northern kingdom that the great impetus was to be given 
to the movement of protest on the part of the minority group 
which held to the ideals of the mishpat-Jahweh culture and 
religion against the overwhelming tides of Amorite-Baal 
culture and religion. It was out of this movement of protest 
that there was to spring the movement of ethical monotheism 
that was to give to the religion of the Hebrews its signifi- 
cance on the field of history. Here again, as we have had 
occasion already to point out in connection with the earlier 
stages of the development of the religion of Israel, the con- 
tent and pattern of the religious experience of Ephraim was 

**! Kings 12:1-20. 


to emerge directly out of the social processes of their practi- 
cal life in their interaction with the concrete factors of their 
social world. 

Notwithstanding the fact that the separation of Ephraim 
from Judah grew out of a social revolt against the conditions 
that obtained under the Davidic monarchy, the development 
of the Ephraimite kingdom soon fell into precisely the same 
general mold. Under Omri a fortified capital was established 
at Samaria. Omri also created a standing army and levied 
heavy taxes. He formed an alliance with Tyre. His son, 
Ahab, married Jezebel, a Phoenician princess, and when he 
succeeded his father, he built in the capital a temple to Baal 
in her honor. 

It was during Ahab's reign that an incident occurred il- 
lustrating in a most dramatic way the growing conflict be- 
tween the mishpat-Jahweh culture, which developed out of 
the culture that the Hebrews had brought with them from 
the desert, and the Amorite-Baal culture. Ahab wanted to 
add to his holdings a vineyard that had descended to Naboth 
through kinship inheritance. Ahab offered to buy it or give 
another piece of land in exchange for it. To this proposal, 
which would seem entirely proper to anyone who had been 
brought up in a culture involving the private ownership of 
property, Naboth, who had been brought up in the mishpat- 
Jahweh kinship culture, replied with indignation: "The 
Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my 
fathers !"^^ This involved an attitude of profound cultural 
and religious significance on the part of Naboth, but one 
which could not be understood by Jezebel, whose point of 
view was cast entirely in the commercial Baalistic tradition 
in which land, like any other property, could be bought or 
sold at the owner's discretion. Angered by what appeared to 
her to be an irrational blocking of the sovereign's desire, 
* I Kings 21 :3. 


Jezebel promptly had Naboth murdered and the land confis- 
cated. Only when this incident is viewed against the back- 
ground of the growing conflict between these two types of 
culture and religion can the outraged indignation of the 
prophet Elijah be understood.^^ The incident constituted 
much more than a mere business transaction or an official 
murder. It was in its deepest sense religious, and involved 
the radical differences in the entire cultural and religious 
outlook of the Hebrew- Jahweh and the Amorite-Baal peo- 
ples. It marked the overt beginning of a bitter and pro- 
longed struggle between the prophets of Jahweh and the 
priests of Baal, of which the dramatic contest on Mount 
Carmel was a symbol. ^^ 

It was in this matrix of social conflict, involving the in- 
tellectual, economic, social, political and moral life of the 
Hebrews, that the great prophetic movement arose. There is 
nowhere in the history of religion a more convincing illus- 
tration of the now generally recognized fact that religion is 
an integral and inseparable phase of a people's total culture, 
and that the religious quality of a people's total experience 
changes as the culture changes. The fact that in this instance 
the struggle was so largely concerned with the economic 
factor does not mean that the religious life of the Hebrews 
was wholly economically determined. The economic factor 
was interwoven with the entire cultural pattern. This fact 
does argue that religion is concerned with those values and 
issues that in their interaction are most fundamental and 
determinative in the total culture of any people. It also makes 
obvious how impossible it is to understand the religious ideas, 
attitudes and behaviors of a people without reconstructing 
the context of the total social situation within which they 

*I Kings 21 : 17-29. 
'"I Kings 18:20-40. 


•Moreover, the theater of these conflicts was not limited to 
the internal tensions of Hebrew society. By the fortunes of 
history, the two Hebrew kingdoms were set on an inter- 
national stage. The two great world powers were set on 
either side of them — waning Egypt on the south and waxing 
Assyria on the north. The great writing prophets were also 
statesmen. They addressed themselves to the specific and 
concrete issues raised by these complex and large-scale inter- 
national relations. The exfoliation of prophetic idealism was 
borne upon a sturdy trunk, the roots of which lay deeply em- 
bedded in a soil of realism. With trepidation the prophets 
watched from the central highlands of Palestine the move- 
ments of threatening armies on the borders, along the littoral 
plains and in the Valley of Esdraelon. Now they counseled 
protective quietism, as in the case of Isaiah's early addresses ; 
now they announced swift and inevitable doom, as in the 
case of Jeremiah. Always they confronted both the northern 
and the southern kingdoms with the uncompromising de- 
mands of a lofty ethical monotheism. The effect upon the 
development of its religion of this setting of Israel's ex- 
perience in the larger international scene, with its complex 
and bafiling issues, was profound. It was during this period 
of international conflict that the concept of Jahweh became 
spiritualized, universalized and ethicized. By these cultural 
processes, interacting with the internal forces of national 
decay, ethical monotheism became denationalized and the 
foundations were laid for a universal religion in Christianity 
that in time was to grow out of the religion of the Hebrews. 
We may leave to the historian and the literary critic the 
details of Israel's complicated history. For our present pur- 
pose it is sufficient to note the nature of the origin of the 
prophetic movement and the general course of its develop- 
ment. The prophetic movement was a minority movement 
within the Hebrew culture and religion. The mass of the 


Hebrews had been hopelessly assimilated to the Baalistic cul- 
ture and religion. The ideals that had their root in brother- 
hood had given way to ideals that had their root in property. 
Notwithstanding the depth and fervor of the convictions and 
the burning eloquence of the eighth century prophets, the 
movement of protest which they represented presently became 
a defeatist movement. In the presence of the realistic condi- 
tions which they faced in a society so completely assimilated 
in its social and economic life, in its moral standards and in 
its religious outlook to the Baalistic culture, the prophetic 
movement, as time went on, became increasingly Utopian in 
its outlook upon the future. 

In the meantime, the direst fears of the prophets had come 
to pass. The northern kingdom, caught between the upper 
and nether millstones of Assyria and Egypt, was crushed. 
A powerful invading Assyrian army laid siege to Samaria, 
which fell in 722 B. C. Half of the free population was 
carried into exile and a large alien population was imported. 
The mixture of the remaining native stock and the imported 
aliens gave rise to the Samaritan people of New Testament 
times. Ephraim as a social and political unit had ceased to 

Subsequent to the catastrophe that befell Ephraim, the 
southern kingdom continued to carry on the fortunes of 
Hebrew culture and religion for more than a century and a 
quarter. Judah not only perpetuated the prophetic protest 
which had its origin in Ephraim, but in the Deuteronomic 
movement under Josiah adopted the mishpat-Jahweh con- 
cept as the official basis of its social and political life. The 
attitudes that led to this far-reaching event in the develop- 
ment of the religion of Israel are explained in part by the 
fact that, owing to its intermixture with non-Hebrew tribes 
and its immediate southern exposure to the desert, the out- 
look of Judah was cast much more in terms of the mishpat- 


Jahweh tradition than was the outlook of Ephraim. For a 
longer time Judah remained outside the main currents of 
international conflict. In Manasseh's reign there was a revo- 
lution on the part of the rural population that placed Josiah 
on the throne. It was in connection with this revolt that the 
Deuteronomic law which embodied the mishpat concept of 
social justice was ofificially adopted. 

By this time Babylon had succeeded Assyria. Jehoiakim 
formed an alliance, first with Egypt, and then with Babylon. 
Under the heavy imposts of Babylon, Jehoiakim rebelled 
against Nebuchadnezzar, who promptly brought an invading 
army which took Jerusalem and destroyed the government. 
Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah to rule as his vassal. 
After paying tribute for less than a decade, Zedekiah rebelled. 
This brought another armed force into Judea, which laid 
siege to Jerusalem. This time the city and the state were com- 
pletely destroyed and the leaders of the population were de- 
ported into exile in Babylon. 

It was with this group of exiles that the further and final 
development of the religion of the Hebrews lay. And a very 
significant chapter they added to that history. Then dark- 
ness settled upon the scene that had witnessed twelve or thir- 
teen centuries of social and religious evolution, the main 
outlines of which we have surveyed. The spirit of ethical 
monotheism, with its passion for social justice cast in terms 
of brotherhood, disembodied from the political state and the 
cultus, was to live on as a body of spiritual ideals and to 
find, in time, a new embodiment in the movement of Chris- 
tianity, the inheritor of Israel's traditions. 

The Utopian outlook upon the future which began with 
defeatism in the great prophetic movement assumed three 
forms that were to be of the utmost significance for the 
future of religion in the Hebrew-Christian tradition. The 
first was the emergence of the idea of the Suffering Servant 


and the Messianic hope. When it became evident that the 
spiritual ideals, which had been refined in the crucible of the 
nation's disasters, could not be realized in the then-existing 
society, national hope took refuge in the future. Then, under 
the ideal conditions which imagination pictured, Jahweh's 
Anointed would appear and set up an ideal theocracy on the 
basis of the concept of social justice which the fortunes of 
history had rendered impossible in the present and real world. 
The deeper the shadows of the gathering night, the more 
brightly burned the Messianic hope. This expectancy, as we 
shall see in Chapter VII, was one of the chief contributions 
which Judaism made to the culture of the Mediterranean 
world in the first century A. D. 

The second form which this Utopian thought assumed 
was an attempt to recover the ancient past of the Hebrew 
people and an idealization of it in terms of their defeated 
hopes which they had by now projected into the future. It is 
to this interest that we owe the collection and editing of the 
folk-lore and scattered literary fragments that had survived 
from the ancient, prehistoric past. To this "escape" from 
the realities of an impossible present we owe the great Judaic 
collection known by the literary critics as J, the great Ephra- 
mite collection known to the critics as E, the Deuteronomic 
collection of the closing days of Judah known as D and the 
body of materials brought together by the priests during the 
Exile, known as P. Each of these groups in turn set the 
earlier collections in the frame of their own material, editing 
them into a more or less consistent whole according to the 
literary standards of their time. These narratives in their 
combined form, JEDP, have come down to our time in the 
books of the Old Testament that comprise Genesis-to-Kings. 

The third form which this Utopian outlook assumed was 
apocalypticism, in which prophecy lost its orientation to the 
concrete social situations and took refuge in symbolism. This 


result is embodied in such books as Zephaniah, Daniel and 

It was this period of national defeat that gave us our 
Bible. With the political state in collapse, with the temple 
and altar in ruins, a defeated Israel turned to the Book and 
to the synagogue. By the end of the last century B. C. or of 
the first century A. D. these writings were collected and 
canonized. The writings that had been deposited in the course 
of many long and tragic centuries by the experience of a 
people whose passionate quest was for social justice and 
whose great spiritual achievement was the discovery of a 
spiritual, a universal and a holy God, became Scripture and 
passed into subsequent centuries as a divine revelation of 
truth and justice. 

Chapter VI: The Development of Old 
Testament Literature 

With this broad outline of the development of Hebrew cul- 
ture and religion before us, let us now turn to the Old 
Testament itself to examine the way in which the various 
parts of its literature grew out of the social situations which 
have been described. 

Inasmuch as it is impossible in so brief a compass to en- 
ter into the details of the critical analysis of so complex a 
literature as comprises the Old Testament, no attempt will 
be made to do so. Neither would it further our present pur- 
pose to enter into the complex documentary evidence that 
supports the results of critical and historical research with 
reference to the various sections of the Old Testament. Those 
who are not already familiar with the techniques and results 
of historical criticism are referred to the voluminous litera- 
ture that has grown up around the scientific study of the Old 
Testament. It will best suit the purpose of the present dis- 
cussion to select, as illustrative of the general process by 
which the Old Testament grew out of the changing culture 
of the Hebrews, the major blocks of literature that compose 
it. We shall, therefore, confine ourselves to a consideration 
in their more general aspects of the writings of the eighth 
century prophets, the narrative and legal sections together 
with the priestly regulations and cultic material of Genesis- 
to-Kings, and selections from the "Other Writings," such as 
the Song of Songs, illustrations of the Wisdom Literature 
found in Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and the devotional 
literature of the Psalms. 

As we have had occasion to note in the preceding chapter, 



some of the literature of the Old Testament is very old. The 
Song of Deborah seems to be the oldest. The Covenant Code, 
judging from its similarity to the Code of Hammurabi, 
must be very old. There are no doubt other elements in 
Genesis-to-Kings, such as ritualistic and civil regulations and 
aphoristic sayings, not now easily identifiable, that grew 
up slowly out of the distant past. It has been suggested in 
the light of recent discoveries that Leviticus may be a late 
edition of a priestly handbook. While there is a difference 
of opinion in regard to the priority of J or E, the prevalent 
critical opinion still is that the Judean source, J, dates from 
approximately the middle of the ninth century B. C. Never- 
theless, the bodies of literature into which these earlier writ- 
ings were incorporated took the form in which they have 
come down to us later than the eighth century. With these 
qualifications and for the purposes of this discussion, we may 
say that in a general survey of the literature of the Old 
Testament the writings of the great prophets of the eighth 
century — Amos, Hosea, Micah and the first Isaiah — were 
the earliest to take their final form. 

The prophetic movement, as we saw in the preceding chap- 
ter, grew out of a protest on the part of a minority group 
of Hebrews who held to the mishpat-Jahweh culture and re- 
ligion against the steadily engulfing influence of the com- 
mercialistic Baalistic culture and religion of the Amorites. 
If we keep in mind the fundamental characteristics of these 
two types of culture and religion, and the violent conflict of 
values and ideals that arose between them, the writings of 
the eighth century prophets become, not only clearly intelli- 
gible, but vividly realistic. 

On the one hand are the prophets, representing the ideals 
of social justice cast in the mold of the inherited tradition 
of the desert clansmen, who were bound together into a so- 
cial community by literal ties of brotherhood and whose prop- 


erty and destinies were shared in a fellowship of persons. 
Property could not be sold, exchanged or alienated because 
it belonged to the group. No member of this brotherhood 
could be enslaved by any other member. No interest could be 
charged for emergency aid. Jahweh, in their view, stood as 
the sponsor and ultimate embodiment of these personal and 
social values and of the social justice that was based upon 
them. In the society of Ephraim and Judah, the protesters 
constituted the more primitive rural landowning peasantry. 
Over against this protesting group stood the Baalistic society 
of rugged individualism, not only of the Amorites, but 
among the Hebrews who had been influenced by Baalistic 
ideals. Baalistic social organization was based upon territory 
and the institution of private property, with its powerful 
landowning "lords," its disappearing middle class of poorer 
landowners who were continually being exploited by the pow- 
erful rich and its slaves, recruited not only from conquered 
peoples, but from the dispossessed of their own race. It was 
an out-and-out commercialistic society erected upon the profit 
motive. It was a city-dwelling society whose fortified walls 
were the symbols of force. Its values and ideals were em- 
bodied in, and symbolized by, the Baalim whose character 
was cast in the frame of the powerful overlords of commer- 
cial wealth. 

Amos, a rustic herdsman and dresser of sycamore trees 
who dwelt in the village of Tekoa, belonged to the mishpat- 
Jahweh protesting group. Making his way into the heart of 
Ephraim, he thundered his denunciations against the wealth 
and splendor of its city civilization with its palaces, its ivory 
couches, its wine and its debauched revelry, built upon the 
wretched misery of the exploited poor who were always sink- 
ing into greater and greater depths of poverty and ulti- 
mately into slavery. It was the Jahweh of brotherhood and 
social justice who found a voice in Amos. Announcing the 


impending doom of Israel, he thundered in the name of 
Jahweh •} 

For three transgressions of Israel, 

And for four, I will not turn it back; 

Because they have sold the innocent for silver, 

And the needy for the sake of a pair of sandals. 

And they trample upon the heads of the poor. 

And they turn the humble from the way . . . 

Garments taken in pledge they spread out 

Beside every altar ; 

And the wine of those who have been fined they drink 

In the houses of their gods.^ 

For they do not know how to do right (an oracle of the Lord) 
Who treasure up violence and robbery in their palaces.^ 

I will smite both the winter and the summer house, 
And the ivory houses shall be ruined.* 

Hear his word, you cows of Bashan, 

You who are in the mountain of Samaria, 

Who oppress the weak, who crush the needy. 

Who say to their lords, "Bring that we may drink."^ 

Woe to them who are at ease in Zion, 

And self-confident in the mountain of Sam.aria . . . 

They, who lie upon ivory couches. 

And stretch themselves out upon divans; 

And eat rams from the flock, 

And calves from the midst of the stall ; 

They who sing to the accompaniment of the lyre, 

Composing songs for themselves like David; 

They who drink chalices of wine, 

And anoint themselves with the finest of oils ; 

But they are not heart-sick for the ruin of Joseph. 

'^In reading these excerpts the reader should keep in mind that in the 
English translation the Hebrew "mishpat" is rendered "justice." 

*Amos 2:6-8. 

'Amos 3 :io. 

* Amos 3 :i5. 

'Amos 4:1. 


Therefore they shall soon go into exile, at the head of the exiles ; 
And the shout of the revelers shall pass away.^ 

Take away from me the noise of your songs, 

And to the melody of your lyres I will not listen. 

But let justice roll down like waters, 

And righteousness like a perennial streamJ 

Hate evil, and love good 

And establish justice in the gate ; 

Perhaps the Lord, the God of Hosts, 

Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.^ 

It is in this same temper that Rosea protested, though the 
vehicle he used and the placement of his emphasis were dif- 
ferent. A prophet of the northern tribes, he presented Israel 
in the role of an adulterous wife who had forsaken Jahweh 
and played the harlot with Baal. He dramatized the popular 
defection of the Hebrews from Jahweh to Baal by his own 
tragic domestic experience. There could be no more con- 
vincing evidence of the assimilation of the Hebrew-mishpat- 
Jahweh culture and religion to the Amorite-commercial-Baal 
culture and religion than that set forth in Hosea's prophecy. 
This, from Hosea's point of view, was the root of the evils 
that had overwhelmed the Hebrews in Canaan. Hosea's tone 
is not so much that of thundering accusation as that of wist- 
ful and passionate disappointment on the part of one who 
has loved whole-heartedly but has been betrayed. One or two 
passages will suffice to convey the deep pathos and yearning 
love of Jahweh for a people who had broken with the ideals 
of the Jahweh community and espoused the ideals and values 
of a Baalistic culture : 

Reason with your mother, reason . . . 

That she put away her harlotry from before her, 

And her adultery from between her breasts ; 

"Amos 6:1-7. 

^ Amos 5 : 23-24. 

"Amos 5:15, 


Lest I strip her naked, 

And place her as in the day she was bom, 

And make her hke the desert, 

And set her in a parched land, 

And slay her with thirst. 

And upon her children I will have no pity, 

Because they are harlot's children, 

For their mother has played the harlot ; 

She who bore them acted shamelessly. 

For she said, "I will go after my lovers. 

Who give me my bread and my water. 

My wool and my flax, my oil and my drink." . . . 

And she did not know 

That it was I who gave her 

The corn and the wine and the oil. 

But the silver, which I multiplied for her. 

And the gold, worked for the Baal.^ 

My people inquire of their wood. 

For their staff instructs them ; 

For a harlotrous spirit has led them astray, 

And they have become apostates from their God.^*' 

A maker of images is Ephraim ; 

He has set up for himself a fat bull ! 

They have gravely apostatized ; 

They love shame more than their glory.^^ 

But Jahweh's is a love that will not let them go. After the 
irreparable ruin that follows moral failure they will return 
to their first love. Jahweh will forgive, and their union will 
be indissoluble: 

Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God ; 

For you have stumbled in your guilt. 

Take with you words. 

And return to the Lord. 

Say unto him, "Wholly forgive guilt ; 
* Hosea 2 :2-5, 8. 
^"Hosea 4:12. 
"Hosea 4:17. 


And we will take what is good, 

And requite thee with the fruit of our lips."^^ 

To which Jahweh replies : 

I will heal their backslidings ; 

I will love them voluntarily ; 

For my anger has turned away from them. 

I will be like the dew to Israel, 

So that he will blossom like the lily.^^ 

Micah, like Hosea, was a spokesman for the peasants. He, 
like Amos, came from the South. His was a direct attack 
upon the whole system of commercialized, profit-motivated, 
city-dwelling culture and religion of Ephraim. A few ex- 
cerpts from his trenchant rebuke will reveal the object of his 
invective and the grounds of his protest : 

What is Jacob's transgression? 
Is it not Samaria? 
And what is Judah's sin? 
Is it not Jerusalem?^'* 

Woe to them who devise wrong . . . 
They covet fields and seize them, 
And houses, and carry them off. 
So they crush a yeoman and his house. 
And a man and his possessions.-^^ 

For the sake of a mere trifle, 
You take a heavy mortgage.^^ 

Hear now, you heads of Jacob, 

And rulers of the house of Israel, 

Is it not your place to know justice. 

You who hate the good and love wickedness, 

"Hosea 14:1, 2. 
"Hosea 14:4, 5. 
" Micah 1 :5. 
"Micah 2:1, 2. 
"Micah 2:10. 


Snatching their skin from upon them, 
And their flesh from upon their bones ?^^ 

It is to Micah that we owe one of the purest statements of 
the sense of social justice that grew upon the rugged desert 
stem of the mishpat concept and one of the sublimest ex- 
pressions of the social implications of religion in all time : 

What does the Lord require of you, 
But to do justice, and love kindness, 
And to walk humbly with your God ?^^ 

The impending national catastrophe for the northern king- 
dom was at hand. The armies of Assyria were at the gates 
of Samaria. Out of this utter defeat of the nation's corporate 
career emerged the vision of a golden age when Jahweh's 
house would be established on the tops of the mountains and 
the people would beat their swords into plowshares and their 
spears into pruning-hooks.^^ This unconquerable hope re- 
fused a final defeat and dared to hope for a return.^^ Above 
the wreckage of national disaster rose the first glimmer of 
the Messianic hope,^^ together with a doctrine of a purified 
remnant that should be the carrier among the nations of the 
Jahweh concept of social justice and the Jahweh way of 
life.^^ With Micah, the scene of the development of the 
Jahweh ideal shifted from the highlands of Ephraim and 
Judah to a wide international theater. ^^ 

With Isaiah, the scene of the prophetic protest shifted to 
the South. Unlike Amos and Micah, Isaiah was a city-born 
aristocrat. He moved with ease in the royal court at Jeru- 
salem. He acted as counselor to the king and was in the full- 

"^^ Micah 3:1, 2. 

'« Micah 6:8. 

"•Micah 4:1-5. 

^ Micah 2:12, 13; 4:6-10; 7:11-13. 

'^ Micah 5:1-3. 

^ Micah 4 :6-8. 

** Micah 4:11-14. 


est sense a statesman. In his earliest discourses he denounced 
in the true mishpat-Jahweh tradition of social justice the in- 
justice and luxury of his compatriots : 

Though you make many a prayer, 

I will not listen. 
Your hands are full of bloodshed — 

Wash yourselves clean ; 
Put away the evil of your doing 

From before mine eyes ; 
Cease to do evil, learn to do good ; 
Seek justice, restrain the oppressor; 

Uphold the rights of the fatherless, defend the cause of the 
widow I^"* 

Ah! you who join house to house, 
And lay field to field, 
Till there is no more room 
And you are left to dwell alone 
In the midst of the land ! 
Therefore the Lord of Hosts has sworn in my hearing: 
"Of a truth shall many a house become a desolation, 
Houses great and goodly, without an inhabitant."^'' 

But by now Judah also had been set in the midst of the 
international scene. Isaiah foresaw the inevitable doom. He 
abandoned hope that the masses would respond to the chal- 
lenge of the ethical ideal of the Jahweh tradition. Meanwhile 
this ideal was being refined in the furnace of national tragedy 
into a lofty ethical and spiritual monotheism. With anxious 
heart he watched the swift movement of events beginning 
with the destruction of the northern kingdom and engulfing 
in its irresistible tide the southern segment of the Hebrew 
folk. These events he interpreted in terms of moral judg- 
ment. With him, as the disaster deepened, the glimmer of 
Messianic hope that first appeared in Micah flamed into a 
burning expectancy : 

** Isaiah I :i5-i7. 
" Isaiah 5:8, 9. 


The people that walked in darkness 

Have seen a great hght; 

Those who dwell in a land of deep darkness — 

On them has light shone. 

Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy: 

They rejoice before thee as with the joy in harvest, 

As men exult when they divide the spoil. 

For the yoke that was their burden, 

And the bars upon their shoulder, 

The rod of their master. 

Thou hast broken in pieces as in the day of Midian. 

For every boot worn by booted warrior in the fray. 

And war cloak stained with blood, 

Will be for burning — food for the fire. 

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us ; 

And the government will be upon his shoulder ; 

And his name will be 

"Wonderful counsellor. Godlike hero, 

Father forever. Prince of peace." 

Of the increase of his government, and of peace, 

There will be no end. 

Upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, 

To establish it, and to uphold it, 

In justice and in righteousness. 

From henceforth, even forever. 

The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will do this.^® 

Isaiah fixed his hope upon a remnant that would carry the 
tradition of social justice beyond the confines of Judea to the 
remotest nations.^'^ In his spiritual insight, his poetic imag- 
ination, the sweep of his thought and the sublime eloquence 
of his expression Isaiah won an unchallenged eminence as 
the greatest of all the prophets. 

These brief samplings taken from the eighth century 
prophets will suffice to give some insight into the origin and 
nature of the prophetic movement. One cannot escape the 
conviction that that movement in its profoundest religious 

'"Isaiah 9:2-7. 

^Isaiah 2:2ff. ; iiiiiflf. 


character was inseparable from the total cultural process of 
which it was an integral part. If our illustrations could ex- 
tend to the later prophets it would be equally clear that the 
form and substance of their messages grew up within specific 
and concrete social situations and that they are unintelligible 
apart from these concrete contexts. 

Let us now turn to the origin and character of the narra- 
tive sections that we find in the literature of the Old Testa- 
ment from Genesis to Kings. From pre-literary and pre- 
historic times there had come down from the ancient past a 
mass of folk-lore and some written fragments that preserved 
in the folk mind legends of the beginnings and fortunes of 
the Hebrew people. Perhaps the earliest piece of writing that 
survived was the Song of Deborah.^® But the great mass of 
material consisted of legends that had grown up around tlie 
great tribal leaders and embroidered their achievements with 
an elaboration of imaginative detail that grew, as tradition 
was handed down from generation to generation, around the 
camp-fires and other places where the folk gathered, but espe- 
cially at religious festivals. 

There were two of the old narrative traditions — one that 
grew up in Judah and one that grew up in Ephraim with 
their different points of view and their different interests. 
It would not serve our purpose to enter into the complex 
critical problem as to which of these traditions is the older. 
Orthodox critical opinion, based chiefly upon documentary 
evidence, assigns the prior date to the Judean tradition, 
known as J.^^ On the other hand, Louis Wallis, basing his 
argument upon sociological evidence, assigns the earlier date 
to the Ephraimite tradition, known as E, assigning the more 
primitive character of J to the characteristically primitive 

=" Judges s. 

**See, e.g., S. R. Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old 
Testament, pp. ii7ff. 


Jahwistic temper of the southern branch of the Hebrew 

Whichever of these sources may be of the earlier origin, it 
appears that the reduction of these traditions to writing was 
part of the prophetic movement, dating approximately from 
the eighth century, though the earlier tradition may have 
originated in the ninth century. Each bears the coloring of 
the interests and points of view of the social group within 
which it took form — another convincing evidence of the in- 
separable relation of a people's religious concepts and atti- 
tudes to its total cultural complex. 

There is probably nowhere in literature a more striking 
illustration of the principle expounded in Chapter III to the 
effect that the writing of history is a social process, and that 
the past is reconstructed out of the survivals of the past that 
exist only in the present, and in terms of the values and inter- 
ests that are operative in the present. Whatever light these 
early Judaic and Ephraimite sources throw upon the dim and 
distant past, they are chiefly valuable as historical documents 
because of the light which they throw upon the times in 
which they were written. This is true because in both the 
Judaic and Ephraimite sources the past is reconstructed and 
idealized in the light of conditions in the southern and north- 
em Hebrew communities at the time the compilations were 
made. This is the nature of all folk-lore. It represents the 
effort of the folk psychology to explain how conditions came 
to be as they are, and also to justify the group's present 
courses of action. 

Two illustrations from this section of the Old Testament 
will suffice to show how these legends developed. One is the 
direct outgrowth of the relations in which the Hebrews 
found themselves with reference to their neighbors. The 
other is the outgrowth of relations existing between parties 

®° Louis Wallis, God and the Social Process, pp. 203, 207, 217, 338. 


within the Hebrew community itself. The Esau- Jacob stories 
have their foundation in the enslavement of Edom to Israel 
in the time of David, and the emancipation of Edom through 
revolt. In this instance the legend-creating capacity of the 
Hebrew community was particularly fertile, since not less 
than five rationalizations of this relationship are offered. 
One represents the conflict as going back to the prenatal 
experience of the two brothers, so that the expectant mother 
inquired of Jahweh as to the meaning of the violent struggle 
within her body only to be assured that she was to give birth 
to two peoples and that the elder would serve the yoiinger.^^ 
A second alleges that Esau was the first to be delivered, but 
that Jacob when born had hold of Esau's heel; whence his 
name, meaning "one who grasps by the heel," or "one who 
supplants."^" A third ascribes their relative position to the 
fact that Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.^^ A 
fourth legend describes how Jacob cheated Esau out of the 
patriarchal blessing which would by rights have gone to Esau 
as the first-born.^^ And, as though these explanations and 
justifications were not enough, a fifth one is added in which, 
after the blessing had been given Jacob by guile, Isaac is 
made to say to Esau : "But when you become restive, you 
shall break his yoke off your neck."^^ By this pronouncement 
the revolt of Esau is made to appear preordained and inevi- 
table by divine decree. 

An illustration of how legend grew up to explain and 
justify the relations in which the various tribes within the 
Hebrew community found themselves is afforded by the ra- 
tionalization of the way in which the Ephraimites absorbed 
the Manassites. We read that in Joseph's bestowing his pa- 

'^ Gen. 25 :2i-23. 
"^ Gen. 25 :24-26. 
"^ Gen. 25 :29-34. 
"^Gen. 27:iflf. 
*Gen. 27:40. 


triarchal blessing upon his two sons, the elder, Manasseh, 
was placed on the right as the first-born, and Ephraim was 
placed on the left as the second-born. But, in bestowing the 
blessing, the arms of Joseph were crossed, so that his right 
hand rested upon Ephraim, the younger, giving him prece- 
dence over Manasseh, the older.^^ 

Those sections of the Old Testament, therefore, that con- 
tain a large content of folk-lore are of immense value as 
throwing light upon the historical conditions which they ra- 
tionalize. When understood for what they actually are — the 
deposits of a vital and genuine experience of a people ad- 
justing themselves to the concrete situations which their 
world presented to them — they take on an authentic, realistic 
and compelling quality that they could not possibly possess 
when viewed as a perfect, prearranged system invading 
from some remote and mysterious realm the salty and gritty 
experience of a great adventure in the spiritual life. 

The community, whether northern or southern, which in- 
herited the tradition of the other incorporated the other 
source into its own so that these two great traditions were 
combined into a more or less consistent and continuous nar- 
rative, known as JE, w^hich we now possess in the frame- 
work of later writings in Genesis-to-Kings. 

A third great body of Old Testament literature consists 
of the legal sections which are to be found as a component 
part of the books from Genesis to Kings. This body -of ma- 
terial is the work of the Deuteronomic writers who compiled 
their material in the seventh century, toward the end of the 
southern kingdom. As we saw in the preceding chapter, 
their work was part of a national reform in which an attempt 
was made to make the mishpat conception of social justice 
the basic law of the state. Indications point to the probability 
that the Deuteronomic code was formulated by prophetic 

*Gen. 48:13-20. 


writers in the reign of Manasseh, during which the influence 
of the BaaHstic culture and religion had all but engulfed 
Judah. Tradition has it that under Manasseh's reign Isaiah 
suffered martyrdom by being sawn asunder, and that Micah 
also lost his life. It was the darkest hour for the religion of 
Jahweh in the history of Judah. The social significance of 
the reform is indicated by the fact that Josiah was placed on 
the throne as the result of a bloody insurrection of the peas- 
ants, in which a mob invaded Jerusalem and killed many of 
the counselors who had served under Manasseh and his son. 
Josiah himself was of peasant descent. 

It was while the temple of Jahweh was being repaired in 
pursuance of Josiah's reforms that the Book of the Law 
which had been compiled by prophetic writers during Ma- 
nasseh's reign was "found." An older Book of the Covenant 
constituted its core.^^ This code, revised and greatly ex- 
panded, was projected back into the desert period as having 
been divinely revealed to Moses, the great national leader, 
by Jahweh. This device, which gave to the code a tremen- 
dous sanction, was not in its essential character a fraud, but 
quite in keeping with even much later literary practice, as 
we shall see in Chapter IX in the case of letters ascribed to 
Paul and Peter. In the deepest and truest sense, these laws 
were the embodiment of the old mishpat- Jahweh tradition, 
and as such were the expression of the continuing life of the 
Hebrew social and religious community. 

The chief body of this legislation we find in our book of 
Deuteronomy. How widespread was the spirit that gave rise 
to the revolt and the reform that followed it is indicated by 
its whole-hearted acceptance by the nation as a whole. It is 
not too much to say that this event marked a turning-point 
in Hebrew history. Its influence upon the subsequent life 
of the Hebrews and upon the religious ideals of peoples be- 

''Exod. 20:20-23:33. 




yond Judaism is beyond calculation. The Western World 
still regards the Ten Commandments which constitute a part 
of this section as the basis to a considerable extent of our 
moral life and, in a fundamental sense, of much of our law. 

It is also of great significance that the Deuteronomic sec- 
tion of the books from Genesis to Kings formed the nucleus 
of the Hebrew Bible. In subsequent Hebrew history it took 
precedence over the prophetic writings, so that the collections 
that were later united to form the Old Testament canon 
took the order of the Law and the Prophets and the Hagi- 
ographa, or Other Writings. 

The Deuteronomists, in turn, incorporated the Judaic and 
Ephraimite documents, which had already been united into a 
single body of material, known to us as JE and which they 
had inherited, into the framework of their own material. 
The result was a more or less homogeneous and continuous 
account of origins, racial development and cultural evolution 
known to us as JED. In this way the literature of the Old 
Testament continued to grow directly out of the developing 
experience of the Hebrew people. 

We are now ready to turn to that other great body of writ- 
ing that forms so large a part, and colors so profoundly, the 
earlier combinations of folk-lore and literary deposits which 
we have described. This increment came from the priests 
during the Exile in Babylon. These priests had inherited the 
compilations of the Judaic and Ephraimite communities as 
these had been reset in the frame of the Deuteronomists. 
From the geographical and historical distance at which they 
were removed from the realistic events of the nation's past, 
they set about interpreting and reconstructing that history 
in terms of their then-present interests, which were chiefly 
in the literature and the cultus of the movement. That they 
should idealize the central place and magnificence of the tem- 
ple is, therefore, not surprising. In this body of material, 


of which our book of Leviticus is the most significant part, 
the entire cultus is represented as having been set up in the 
wilderness, with a divinely appointed Aaronic priesthood, an 
elaborate ritual, and minute regulations regarding ceremonial 
arrangements. The Tabernacle is represented as having been 
built according to divinely revealed specifications, only to give 
way in Solomon's time to a magnificent temple that in pro- 
portions and splendor of detailed arrangements seems to be 
in pronounced contrast with the more realistic picture one 
gets from the other sources. According to this reconstructed 
picture of the past, the Tabernacle was set up in the midst 
of the camp and the Ark of the Covenant led the migrating 
hosts of Israel on the march and in battle. 

When the priests of the Exile had incorporated the earlier 
narrative sources and the codes of the Deuteronomists into 
their own material and edited them in keeping with their in- 
terests and their ideas of history, the great body of the Old 
Testament which we have in the books from Genesis to 
Kings was complete. But when its development is accurately 
traced, it is seen to be in its entirety and in each of its com- 
ponent parts the deposit of the changing and evolving experi- 
ence of a people who interpreted their interaction with their 
world in terms of religious values. 

We may now direct our attention to selections from the 
Hagiographa, or Other Writings, that belong to quite an- 
other category than the types of Old Testament literature 
which we have thus far considered. For illustrative purposes 
it will suffice to consider briefly such writings as the Song 
of Songs, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Psalms. 

The Song of Songs is an illustration of the complete 
merging of the religious with the secular interests of the 
Hebrews, a characteristic which remains to this day. Its place 
in popular esteem is indicated by its title — "The Song of 
Songs." But its interpretation, especially in a religious frame 


and at this distance, has given scholars no end of difficulty. 
Some, like Ewald, have seen in it a drama from which the 
partition of the parts into scenes and acts and the indication 
of the actors has dropped out. Others see in it a collection 
of rustic folk-songs used in the celebration of w^eddings, in 
which the bride, bridegroom and the villagers participated. 
Others regard it as a lyric expression of nature-worship. 
Still others see in it an allegory celebrating the relation of 
the Hebrew people to Jahweh and, later still, of Christ to 
the church. In any case, it gives evidence of the amplitude of 
Hebrew religious interest by including in their sacred Scrip- 
tures a purely secular literary expression of one of the funda- 
mental interests of their common life. 

Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes belong to a body of writ- 
ing that is known as the Wisdom Literature of the Old 
Testament. Job is a dramatic poem addressed to the age-old 
problem of suffering. The traditional belief among the He- 
brews was that suffering was always the result of sin — a 
concept to which the prophets had contributed their full share 
in pronouncing their woes upon an offending nation. But in 
the debate which constitutes the frame of this lofty poetic 
expression. Job maintains his innocence in the face of the 
stubborn reiteration of the traditional stereotype by his 
"friends." In the midst of devastating disaster, and out of 
the depths of a baffled and lonely soul, Job appeals his case 
to God. God exonerates Job, thus shattering the traditional 
stereotype of belief. But God's answer from the whirlwind, 
as a symbol of the overwhelming power of the environing 
world, leaves the solution still hidden in the infinite and in- 
scrutable wisdom of God — where it remains to this day. 

The book of Proverbs, as its title indicates, is a collection 
of homely observations on life stated in concise and trench- 
ant form. Though there are evidences of the importation 
of collections from Egypt and Persia, the proverbs well up 


out of the practical, ever}'day experiences of life. In these 
sage observations, such as grow up out of the common life 
of most peoples, is to be found another evidence of the 
diffusion of religious attitudes on the part of the Hebrews 
throughout the entire range of their practical and so-called 
secular interests and activities. With them, religion was a 
qimlity of life in its manifold and inclusive aspects. 

Ecclesiastes, among the last of the books of the Old Tes- 
tament to be written, was, in its earliest form, an expression 
of unrelieved pessimism. The face of the world revealed to 
its author no purpose, no plan, no worthy end for which to 
live. The processes of nature tread the leaden path of mean- 
ingless routine. The pursuit of wisdom ends only in the bit- 
terness of disillusionment. The brevity and vanity of human 
life is unrelieved by any hope of a future life. Man, like a 
tree, lies where he falls. The picture is all background; not 
even a pencil of light illumines its blackness. Does this reflect 
the accumulated frustration of a people and a culture upon 
whom the growing darkness of a starless night has at last 
descended? Or is it the reflection of a soul that has lost its 
sense of the meaning and worth of life in an unreal and goal- 
less world ? 

The picture was too dark to be endured even by those 
who were still fascinated by a mood that later seized upon 
Schopenhauer and still pierces with its bitter poignancy many 
in our own generation. Not less than two later writers at- 
tempted to soften its harsh lines by introducing a shaft of 
softened light upon its dark background. These revisions of 
the original have given us our present Ecclesiastes, the 
twelfth chapter of which is one of the choicest gems of all 
literature. With this writing, which is among the closing 
books of the Hebrew canon, the moods of thought and feel- 
ing in the literary expression of the Old Testament shift 


from the zenith of Messianic hope in the eighth century- 
prophets to the nadir of despair. 

In closing this brief illustrative and interpretative survey 
of the literature of the Old Testament we regress to a some- 
what earlier and more exultant type of literary expression 
in the Psalms. The Psalms constitute the great hymn and 
prayer book of the Hebrew religion. They cover the widest 
possible range of religious emotion and aspiration. Some 
of them are very old, coming down from the days of the 
southern kingdom — a few possibly from David. Most of 
them arose after the period of the Exile when the temple 
worship was revived. The book is an assemblage of many 
collections, such as "The Prayers of David," "The Psalms 
of the Sons of Karath," "The Psalms of the Sons of Asaph," 
"The Songs of Ascent," "The Hallelujah Psalms," and the 
songs sung at the celebration of the Passover. Designed as 
they were for liturgical use, many of them still carry direc- 
tions for their rendition. Across the centuries one can in 
imagination hear the chanting of these ancient hymns and 
prayers by the priests in the restored temple, or the choruses 
of pilgrims as their eager feet neared the gates of Jerusalem 
and their eyes caught sight of the distant masses rising upon 
the Hill of Zion. 

Because these psalms and prayers well up out of a common 
human experience, they still afford a suitable medium for the 
expression of religious emotion. The fifty-first psalm has 
through the centuries remained the world's confessional. Out 
of great depths of distress the lips of religious souls have 
fashioned the words of trust and hope found in these ancient 
prayers. Much of the noblest and most stately music of the 
Christian church still consists of these ancient hymns of 
praise, aspiration and devotion. 

As one rises from even so brief an illustrative survey of 
the literature of the Old Testament, one cannot escape the 


vivid realization that we have on its pages the self-authenti- 
cating record of self-vaHdating religious experience. It re- 
quires no support of external authority. Its reality is the 
reality of a continuing human group in interaction with a 
continuing world of reality. In that continuing life we par- 
ticipate as the representatives of the living generation of men. 
That continuing world is our world — a changed world indeed, 
but still the same world that has nourished upon its ample 
bosom the succeeding generations of living human beings 
who cherish the enduring needs, the enduring hopes and the 
enduring aspirations of those who have set out upon the 
quest of the more abundant life. 

Chapter VII: The Christian Movement 
and the Mediterranean World 

When we turn from the literature of the Old Testament 
to that of the New Testament, we discover that it, too, was 
the deposit of the religious experience of a continuing hu- 
man group in interaction with its environing world. It is as 
impossible to understand the ideas and the attitudes of the 
early Christians without reconstructing the cultural situation 
in which they lived, as it is to understand the developing re- 
ligious life of the Hebrews without reconstructing the cul- 
tural history of which it was an integral part. The cultural 
life of the early Christians grew out of their interaction with 
the changing social situations in the Mediterranean world 
of the first and second centuries of the Christian era. The 
evidence of the effects which were wrought by their interac- 
tion with the surrounding Mediterranean culture lies upon 
every page of the New Testament. In arriving, therefore, at 
any understanding of the beliefs, the attitudes and the be- 
haviors of the members that constituted the early Christian 
community it is necessary to reconstruct from our knowledge 
of the ancient world the social milieu within which the Chris- 
tian movement arose and within which its earliest develop- 
ment took place. This we shall attempt to do by gathering 
together in the briefest possible summary some of the prin- 
cipal characteristics of that ancient world as they are set out 
in the researches of scholars who have worked with signifi- 
cant results in that field. 

The first characteristic of the Mediterranean world to at- 
tract our attention at the time of the emergence of Chris- 
tianity is the confluence of three powerful streams of culture 



that in their interaction constitute the culture complex of the 
first century. These were the Jewish, the Greek and the Ro- 
man cultures. In later centuries these three streams were to 
amalgamate with the barbaric culture of northern Europe to 
form the culture of the Middle Ages. Out of this amalgama- 
tion, in turn, were to emerge the intellectual and social forces 
that were to give direction and form to the modern world. 
Each of these three cultures of such diverse origin and qual- 
ity exercised a determinative influence upon the character, 
the outlook and temper of the Mediterranean world. No less 
definitely did they exercise a determinative influence, both 
directly and indirectly, upon the quality and temper of the 
early Christian movement. 

This becomes obvious when we examine, even in a sum- 
mary manner, the characteristic contributions of each of these 
streams of culture. The Jew brought to that world what has 
been well called "a. genius for religion." The religious quality 
of his experience was in a genuine sense unique, differen- 
tiating him in this regard more than any other quality from 
the other social and cultural groups that constituted the popu- 
lation of the Mediterranean world of the first century. The 
social process out of which that distinguishing characteristic 
grew we have already traced in Chapters V and VI. 

When the religious contribution of the Jew is further 
analyzed it is seen to be particularly rich and manifold. For 
one thing, the Jew brought into this fusion of cultures a 
monotheistic conception of God which he had wrought out 
of his long experience in viewing the events of his changing 
and stressful world in Palestine and the Near East from the 
standpoint of a world-view that involved as its central point 
of reference a unified and personal conception of the nature 
of reality. This monotheism was in radical contrast with the 
polytheism of the Greek and Roman religions. But the mono- 
theism of the Jew involved much more than a merely in- 


tellectual conception of the nature of reality. Along with the 
intellectual conception the Jew had developed a highly ethical 
view of life. During the social process by which the concept 
of Jahweh had become universalized and spiritualized it was 
also becoming ethicized. This moral quality that attached to 
the Jew's conception of God affected his concept of the moral 
nature of reality and of the moral obligations of human life 
in its relation to a moral world. 

One of the most distinctive aspects of the religious heritage 
which the Jew brought to the Mediterranean world was his 
Messianic hope. This hope had sprung out of the disasters 
that engulfed the Jewish community and the collapoe of the 
political state as it was caught in the vortexes of political 
struggle that surged back and forth over the terrain of Pales- 
tine, situated as it was between the world powers to the north 
and to the south. From the misfortunes of Jahweh's chosen 
people to the idealized figure of the Suffering Servant was 
but a short step in the psychological behavior of an idealistic 
people frustrated by the overpowering force of militaristic 
empires. It was out of this frustration and defeat that the 
compensatory expectation of the Messiah sprang to serve as 
the hope upon which the aspirations of a people, dispossessed 
of all but their spiritual heritage, hung. 

To this Mediterranean world the Jews brought out of 
their experience in exile a corporate ecclesiastical body — a 
church. This church was a religious community, shaped and 
fashioned into a compact unity of thought and interest by 
the pressures of a hostile outlying world. Moreover, this 
religious community was the carrier of a priceless possession 
which, in the absence of state and cult, was the symbol of 
their most cherished traditions — the Hebrew Bible. The nu- 
cleus of this literature, the Law, had drawn about itself the 
Early and the Later Prophets and the Hagiographa. This 
literature had been canonized, and thus constituted a sacred 


body of revealed and authoritative Scripture. At the time of 
the emergence of Christianity the Hebrew Bible was avail- 
able in the Septuagint, a translation in the Greek tongue. 
This Jewish Bible not only furnished a model for the sub- 
sequent collection of Christian literature, but was incor- 
porated as an integral part of the Christian Bible. 

Moreover, the Jewish community had its diaspora — frag- 
ments of the community scattered widely throughout the 
Mediterranean world. Every principal center had its syna- 
gogue and was familiar with the presence of these separatists 
who carried on their worship, their distinguishing ceremo- 
nies and their propaganda. As a result of their propaganda, 
numerous proselytes had been won from the gentile commu- 
nity, while there was still a wider fringe of adherents who 
frequented the worship of the Jewish synagogue and ac- 
cepted by and large the Jewish standards of ethical conduct, 
but who did not formally identify themselves with the Jew- 
ish church. These Jewish communities which constituted the 
diaspora furnished many of the centers from which Chris- 
tianity was first promulgated. 

Most significant of all, the Jewish stream of culture gave 
to the Mediterranean world the figure of Jesus, around whose 
person the movement of Christianity was in a unique sense 
to take its rise. For, whatever importance may be placed 
upon the supporting and deep-lying forces in the social proc- 
ess that gave rise to the Christian movement, it was as the 
movement found expression in, and was given direction by, 
this great spiritual leader that it came to be organized into 
a movement with an appropriate ideology and set of values. 
Jesus, as a historic figure appearing in the Mediterranean 
world, was a product of the ancient Jewish culture and em- 
bodied in himself the finest flowering of its prophetic spirit. 

To these contributions should be added the fact that the 
Jewish stream of culture gave to the Mediterranean world 


its earliest nuclei of Christians. Not only was the locale of the 
origin of Christianity in the heart of the Jewish community 
in Palestine, but for some time its only adherents were Jews 
who accepted Jesus as the expected Messiah. At the begin- 
ning Christianity was looked upon by contemporary observ- 
ers as merely another sect of the Jews. 

As contrasted with the Jewish contribution to the culture 
complex of the Mediterranean world, the stream of Greek 
culture was predominantly secular in its temper. Having 
sprung from the superimposition of many migrating peoples 
upon the old Minoan stock, and having developed their life in 
the midst of the varied and Stimulating environmental condi- 
tions of topography and climate, the Greek folk were char- 
acterized by great resourcefulness and versatility. Their pri- 
mary interest was in the objects and events of the immediate 
scene and in the present human satisfactions which these ob- 
jects and events could afford. Like the men of the Renais- 
sance, the Greeks were humanists, and found many forms for 
expressing their joy of living. 

Without doubt the greatest contribution of the Greek cul- 
ture to the Mediterranean world, as well as to all subsequent 
time, was a keen intellectual curiosity, a penetrating insight 
into the nature of the world and man, and a capacity for 
thought that was at once analytic and synthetic. The Greek 
was a keen and accurate observer of the phenomena of na- 
ture and of social behavior — a temper of mind to which even 
our modern science traces its empirical tradition. The Greek 
was a great system builder. With him thought became re- 
flective. He formulated great ancient systems of philosophy. 
His was a love of wisdom, which is more than knowledge. 
He had a passion for arriving at the meaning of the phe- 
nomena of the world about him and within him, and for such 
an understanding of them as can only come from viewing 
them in a frame of thought that binds them all into some 


form of rational unity. If the Jew had a genius for religion, 
the Greek had a genius for intelligence. The Greek capacity 
and penchant for clear, incisive and logical thought was to 
leave its mark, not only upon the then-contemporary culture, 
but upon the culture of all subsequent time. The impact of 
this phase of Greek culture upon the Christian movement 
was to be of far-reaching determinative influence. From this 
impact was to spring up within Christianity an interest in the 
intellectual and metaphysical aspects of Christian experience 
that would eventuate in the impressive theological systems of 
historic Christianity. 

But the many-sided Greek culture by no means exhausted 
itself in intellectual pursuits. From the same humanistic in- 
terest sprang a passionate love of the aesthetic phases of the 
world. This interest was itself many-sided and found ex- 
pression in poetry, architecture, sculpture, music and the 
drama. The Greek's art in all its forms was a celebration of 
life. His temples, his statuary and his poetry have survived 
the centuries as among the purest forms of the expression of 
man's appreciation of the face of beauty that his world pre- 
sented to him. 

Neither was this many-sided interest exhausted by the 
combination of his intellectual and artistic pursuits. He was 
equally interested in social relations, especially as they found 
expression in the state. In his social theories the Greek was 
experimental and democratic. In the Greek city state democ- 
racy found its first experimental expression, particularly in 
Athens as distinguished from Sparta. In these social com- 
munities an effort was made at integrating individual free- 
dom with social solidarity and stability. Even though the 
experiment ceased with the passing of the city state, it still 
remains as one of the significant advances in the organization 
of society in the interest of the reconciliation of personal 
and social values — a problem that still survives in the several 


contemporary experiments in government ranging from 
Fascism in Italy, through Naziism in Germany and the New 
Deal in America, to communism in Russia. These experi- 
ments demonstate that the problem is very old and very diffi- 
cult and still far from solution. Neither is it without signifi- 
cance that one of the most important contributions of Greek 
philosophy is to be found in such discussions as Plato's Re- 
public and Aristotle's Constitutions and Politics, in which, in 
characteristic Greek temper, an attempt is made to apply 
critical intelligence to the problem of social organization. 

Anyone who contemplates the scene of the Mediterranean 
world in the first century cannot fail to note the fact that 
it was the Greeks who gave to that world the language in 
which the literature of the New Testament was written. It 
had already, as we have noted, provided in the Septuagint 
the medium best fitted for the use of the Old Testament 
Scriptures in the scattered Jewish communities throughout 
the Graeco-Roman world. 

The dynamic quality of the Greek culture — its hold upon 
the inner springs of the human spirit — is evidenced by the 
fact that, although Greece was conquered by Rome politically, 
Rome was spiritually conquered by the Greek culture. As a 
result, the culture of the Greeks dominated the scene of the 
entire Mediterranean world. This fact, as we shall see, had 
far-reaching effects upon the development of Christianity, 
particularly on its intellectual side. 

As contrasted with both the Jewish and the Greek, the Ro- 
man stream of culture was practical, materialistic, utilitarian, 
legal and administrative. The dominant characteristics of the 
Roman culture rested upon the fact that the Romans were 
an aggressive and militaristic people who, through one con- 
quest after another, brought into a political unity the peoples 
of the then-known world, from Britain to Arabia and from 
Spain to the Caspian Sea. 


One of the first and most important outgrowths of the 
Roman conquest was Roman law, which constituted one of 
the greatest of the contributions of Roman culture, not only 
to the Mediterranean world, but to all time. However the 
roots of law may be embedded in custom, positive law arises 
directly and promptly out of the necessity of adjusting the 
rights and privileges of the conquering and the conquered. 
By the time Christianity entered upon the Mediterranean 
scene Roman law had built up through successive periods its 
jus ciznle, its jus gentium, and its jus honorarium, and was 
well into the period of the formulation of the jus naturale. 
When this evolution of positive jurisprudence had reached 
the point of final codification under Justinian, it became the 
foundation of the development of all jurisprudence in the 
modern world. 

Growing out of the process of incorporating conquered 
peoples into an organized and stable social unit, the Romans 
evolved a capacity for developing the political state. By or- 
ganizing the conquered peoples of the then-known world into 
the Roman Empire, social order was established in the het- 
erogeneous mass of atomistic and warring racial and po- 
litical groups. This gave to the society of the first century the 
pax Romanus which, although established by force, through 
its liberal policy of administration gave to the several incor- 
porated groups the opportunity to perpetuate their own essen- 
tial cultures. It also gave the protective framework within 
which the interpenetration of cultures could go forward 
among peoples of widely differing viewpoints and types of 
life. Though different in their racial and cultural origins, 
these peoples were now bound together into a larger, more 
comprehensive community of social interests and loyalties. 
This interchange of ideas and experience was facilitated by 
commerce, travel and communication made possible in large 


part by the magnificent system of roads throughout all parts 
of the Roman Empire. 

At the same time that the Empire provided this structure 
within which the component elements of the political state 
could develop a many-sided type of culture, it served as a pro- 
tection against the pressures of the Orient, on the one hand, 
and of the barbarian Teutonic hosts of northern Europe, 
on the other. The Roman Empire in this way provided the 
sheltered ground upon which were laid the foundations of 
western culture. At the same time it provided the conditions 
for the gradual penetration of the Empire by the other two 
great streams of influence — the chief contributions of which 
to society lay in the direction of intellectual interests and 
spiritual ideals — the Greek culture and the religion of the 
Jews and its successor, Christianity. 

Closely allied with its genius for law and political organi- 
zation was the genius of the Roman culture for institutions 
in general, of which its achievement in the political state 
may stand as a symbol. The family among the Rom.ans be- 
came in a peculiar sense an institution. No more impressive 
result of this influence is to be found than the Roman Catho- 
lic Church which was the outgrowth of the impact of the 
Roman spirit upon the simple way of life of the primitive 
Christian community, as the massive theological systems 
were the outgrowth of the impact of the Greek philosophical 
interest upon the Christian movement. 

Such was the social and cultural environment within which 
Christianity had its rise. The second characteristic of the 
Mediterranean world to attract our attention lay in the reli- 
gious conditions and movements of the first and second 

The first obtrusive fact consists of certain wide-spread 
spiritual attitudes that gave to the society of that period an 
expectant, if not yearning, state of mind with reference to a 


more satisfying religious life. The first phase of these atti- 
tudes was negative, consisting of a state of spiritual unrest 
and discontent. The decline of the city states had dissolved 
the traditional social bonds that had incorporated the indi- 
vidual into a homogeneous social group in which his rela- 
tions, functions and obligations were relatively well-defined 
and stable. With the decay of this more immediate and inti- 
mate social bond, the individual was set adrift from his 
accustomed habits and loyalties in a social world in which his 
relations and functions were being realized in the vast, re- 
mote and impersonal structures of the Empire. The emotional, 
moral and spiritual reactions of persons whose lives were cast 
in this period were characteristic of all such periods of transi- 
tion from relatively small and homogeneous groupings to 
massive, impersonal and unaccustomed social realignments. 
Such a condition is not difficult for us who live in the mod- 
ern period to understand, because we ourselves are involved 
in just such a process of transition and with astonishingly 
similar emotional, moral and spiritual results. 

Consequently, we are quite prepared to appreciate the indi- 
vidualism which characterized the first century as it charac- 
terizes our own. Modern social psychology has shown us how 
determinative is the role which one assumes in his social 
group upon the development of one's personality. When the 
accustomed group dissolves, the role which one assumes in 
society becomes confused. It remains confused until a defi- 
nite role in the new group is understood and accepted. The 
definition of relationships and functions in the remote and 
impersonal group is exceedingly difficult for the most com- 
petent persons. For the masses, such a definition of relations 
and functions is quite beyond their capacity. Consequently 
they become dissociated individuals with reference to any sig- 
nificant social group. This generally leads, as we well know, 
to dissociation in the person himself. The consequences of 


this dissociation were at the first almost wholly negative, as 
in our own current experience. Among these negative con- 
sequences were the loss of orientation to reality, disillusion- 
ment and pessimism. The traditional sanctions became in- 
effective and disappeared. Moral disintegration resulted from 
the shattering of accustomed behavior patterns and from loss 
of motivation. And since, as we have seen, religion is an 
integral part of the entire social process, the decay of these 
more local and homogeneous cultural groups carried with it 
the decay of religion, a phenomenon which is much in evi- 
dence in our own contemporary society. 
/" The second phase of this period of transition was positive. 
It showed itself in a yearning and outreach for something 
that would satisfy the unmet spiritual needs and give some 
new integration to a dismembered personal and social life 
on a scale that was within the reach of the "lost soul." The 
second phase had already set in when Christianity entered 
upon the scene. It was evidenced, in part, by a wide-spread 
system of "counseling," in which philosophers gave advice 
and guidance to individuals who were involved in moral and 
spiritual confusion. These counselors used such resources as 
were available in such insights into the meaning of life as 
were to be found in the ancient systems of philosophic 
thought. These systems, it should be remembered, had pro- 
found religious implications. It appeared also in a wide- 
spread type of popular preaching resembling in some respects 
the methods of the modern street preacher. It appeared also 
in the deification and worship of the emperor which began 
with Domitian — a symbol of the social and spiritual unity of 
the Empire. 

The sense of conflict and inadequacy that grew directly out 
of personal and social disintegration gave rise then, as al- 
ways, to a sense of sin. People became introspective. They 
gave themselves to self-examination. Out of this attitude of 


frustration and guilt sprang a wide-spread sense of need for 
redemption. Likewise, from the frustration and disillusion- 
ment that arose out of the realistic life of the then-present 
situation sprang a yearning for personal immortality. From 
the sense of futility that arises out of the incompetency of 
people to deal effectively with the social forces of the pres- 
ent scene there was then, as always under defeatist circum- 
stances, a general turning to the supernatural. So prevalent 
was this temper of mind that scholars like Shirley Jackson 
Case are convinced that much of the supernatural element 
in early Christianity was not native to Christianity, but was 
taken over by Christianity from the environing pagan world 
in which it had its rise, together with a survival supernatural- 
ism inherited from Judaism.-^ 

But even more indicative of the positive phase of this re- 
action was the appearance of the mystery religions in answer 
to the hungers and needs of the first century. Their rapid 
spread in the IMediterranean world is evidence of the depth 
and extent of these spiritual needs. The mystery religions 
offered redemption from sin. They guaranteed personal im- 
mortality through identification with the dying and living 
god. They furnished identification with an intimate, sus- 
tained and sustaining human group in the fellowship of the 
believing community. The deep tone of tragedy and hope in 
the dramatic rituals of the secret societies gave release to the 
emotions of despair and yearning. The appeal of the mys- 
tery religions to the emotions oft'ered compensation for the 
sterile intellectualism of the massive and remote philosophical 
systems of the classical tradition. Because of these character- 
istics the mystery religions satisfied personal needs. More- 
over, through the emotional identification of the worshipper 
with the processes of nature, the mystery religions helped 

* Shirley Jackson Case, Experience with the Supernatural in Early 
Christian Times. 


him build an integrated cosmos as a frame of reference 
within which his personal life could be set. 

The most important of these mystery cults were the Eleu- 
sinian Mysteries, the Dionysos-Orphic cult of Thrace, the 
Isis-Osiris mystery of Egypt, the religion of the Great 
Mother, Cybele, of Phrygia, and Mithraism of Persia, In 
their primitive, though less in their mature form, these were 
fertility cults, based upon the death and resurgence of the 
life of nature associated with the cycle of the seasons. They 
were for the most part non-theological in the sense of not 
having a systematic ideology. Such ideological content as 
they possessed consisted of myths regarding the suffering, 
the death and the resurrection of their deities. The funda- 
mental configuration of these myths was that of the dying 
and the living god. In general the action of the mysteries 
passed through three stages. The first stage consisted of 
ceremonies connected with the preparation of candidates 
through vows of secrecy, confession, lustration or baptism, 
sacrifices, pilgrimages and self -mortification. The second 
stage consisted of the initiation of the candidate into the fel- 
lowship of the mystery through ceremonies of initiation, 
through regeneration as in the blood-bath of the slain bull, 
through the union of the initiate with the deity through the 
celebration of the feast of communion, through the experi- 
encing of ecstatic states, through the complete identifica- 
tion of the worshipper with the deity by the divine mar- 
riage of the soul with its god and the divine indwelling and 
through contemplative adoration. The final stage consisted 
in the attainment of blessedness through the appearance of 
the deity and the complete realization of salvation and im- 

Such, in briefest possible outline, was the general social, 
cultural and religious environment of the ancient Graeco- 
Roman world within which Christianity as a social move- 


ment had its rise. It was a world singularly open and predis- 
posed toward such a movement as Christianity, flowering, as 
it did, upon the ancient stem of Judaism and offering redemp- 
tion from sin, an ethic of singular purity, a powerful sanc- 
tion, an appeal to the emotions of love and hope and a 
promise of personal immortality. But, if these social and 
spiritual movements furnished Christianity with a fallow 
soil, they also brought to bear upon it powerful conditioning 
influences that had much to do with shaping its beliefs, de- 
termining its points of emphasis and influencing its institu- 
tional development, not only with reference to itself as a 
movement, but with reference to the Empire. The operation 
of these influences we shall trace in the succeeding chapters. 
Their influence in shaping the Christian movement was no 
less determinative and striking than was the influence of the 
social forces of the earlier Palestinian world in shaping the 
religion of the Old Testament. 

Twice in his writings Paul refers to "the fulness of times" 
in regard to the rise of Christianity. To be sure, his thought 
ran in another mold than that which has held our attention 
in the present chapter. He was thinking of the exfoliation 
of Judaism into Christianity in a straight-line religious de- 
velopment. But in a social and cultural sense this formula 
receives an unusual significance when the emergence of Chris- 
tianity is viewed against the social, political and religious 
situation of the first century in the Graeco-Roman world. 

Chapter VIII: The Internal Development 
of the Christian Movement 

Before we turn to the consideration of the way in which 
the literature of the New Testament grew directly out of the 
developing experience of the Christian community, we need 
to tarry for a swift glance at the internal development of the 
Christian movement in its interaction with the social, intel- 
lectual and religious forces that were operative in the Medi- 
terranean world of the first and second centuries. Only so 
can we understand how the various fragments that constitute 
our New Testament were deposited by the Christian 

As we have seen, what became Christianity was, at its be- 
ginning, a movement which arose within Judaism. Its first 
adherents were Jews who believed that Jesus was the ex- 
pected Messiah foretold by the prophecies that had their rise 
during the period of disasters that overwhelmed the Jewish 
community. These conditions were described in Chapters V 
and VI. Christianity was, therefore, regarded by its own ad- 
herents and its contemporary observers as only another sect 
of the Jews. Of these Jewish sects there were several, such 
as the Sadducees, the Pharisees and the Essenes. Each of 
these sects had its characteristic beliefs and practices. The 
Christians were differentiated from other Jewish sects and 
the main body of the Jewish community not only by the fact 
that they accepted Jesus as the fulfilment of the Messianic 
hope, but also by certain practices, though a Jew would not 
cease to be a Jew if he identified Jesus as the Messiah. 

This belief and these practices not only set the Christians 
off as a sect among the Jews, but placed them in conflict with 



the rest of the Jewish community. Opposition against them 
rose to such a height as to evoke repressive measures and 
even persecution. This opposition, of course, had the effect 
of sharpening the differences between the Christian commu- 
nity and its Jewish environment. It also had the effect of 
consoHdating the Christian community and of heightening 
its loyalty and devotion to Jesus. It contributed much to the 
erection of the Christian movement into a cause. 

As a result of the fact that Christianity had its rise within 
the Jewish community, the first converts to Christianity 
brought over with them into the new sect their Jewish frame 
of thought, their Jewish attitudes and their Jewish religious 
ceremonies. They were, as has been suggested, simply Jews 
who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. It did not occur to them 
that gentiles were eligible to become Christians except as they 
first became Jews through submitting to the initiatory rite of 
circumcision and acceptance of the obligations of the Jewish 
law. So persistent were these attitudes and points of view 
that the proposal of a certain element in the early Christian 
community that gentiles be admitted to membership on equal 
terms with Jews, especially as advocated by Paul, was bit- 
terly resisted. Groups of Judaizers followed Paul on his mis- 
sionary journeys in gentile territory. These Judaizers sought 
to persuade the gentile converts that their conversion was not 
valid unless they should first submit to circumcision. 

In order to describe the tenacity of the original Jewish 
convictions and attitudes, we have already anticipated the 
most important event in the evolution of early Christianity, 
if not the most important event in its entire historic career. 
Upon that event turned the whole future of Christianity. That 
event was the transition of the center of the Christian move- 
ment from Palestine to the gentile world that lay in Asia 
Minor, in the lands around the Aegean and in Italy. Had the 
scene of Christianity remained in Palestine, Christianity 


would undoubtedly have remained only another Jewish sect. 
The shifting of its center to the Graeco-Roman world intro- 
duced factors which led to the shattering of its Jewish 
shackles and to its becoming a universal religion. These same 
factors subjected it to the impact of non- Jewish influences 
in the Graeco-Roman world that were largely to determine 
its frame of thought and its placement of emphasis, and to 
cause it to enter upon its career as the religion of western 
culture. This wider, non-Jewish world furnished the audi- 
ences for the early Christian propagandists, and these audi- 
ences had much to do with the stressing of points of view 
and the placement of emphasis in the Christian message. 
One cannot read the literary products of that early Chris- 
tian effort to spread the new gospel without visualizing the 
audiences to which it was addressed and feeling vividly the 
influence upon it of the interests, points of view and spiritual 
needs of these audiences. 

There were many factors that led to this transition from 
the Jewish to the gentile world. One factor undoubtedly was 
the hostility of the legalistic Palestinian Jews to the new gos- 
pel. On the other hand, the Jewish communities that were 
scattered widely throughout the Mediterranean world with 
their proselytes and their adherent "God-fearers," were lib- 
eralized through the influence of the Graeco-Roman culture 
that impinged upon them. These centers furnished a fertile 
soil in which the seeds of the new movement took- more 
ready rootage. Here were in evidence the hungers and needs 
that were described in the preceding chapter. These hungers 
and needs, as we have seen, were for redemption, for some 
integration of personal and social life, for release of the emo- 
tions, for hope and for immortality. Life in this outlying 
gentile world was cast in a very different mold from that of 
the Jewish world in Palestine. Those who lived in the gentile 
world were not so much interested in perpetuating the be- 


liefs and ceremonies of the old religions (it had not accepted 
the Jewish religion on any considerable scale) as in discover- 
ing a more satisfying way of life. 

It was in this outlying world on gentile soil that new cen- 
ters of Christianity were early established. The most impor- 
tant among these first centers was that at Antioch, situated 
on the border between Palestine and the lands beyond. The 
membership of this Christian community was about equally 
divided between Jews and non-Jews. It is significant as in- 
dicating the changes that were coming over the movement 
that it was here that the adherents of the new faith were first 
called "Christians." It was by this name that they were 
ever after to be designated in history. Whether or not this 
event was so interpreted by the chronicler who wrote the Acts 
of the Apostles, as it probably was, it is now clear that this 
was a turning-point in the development of the Christian 
movement. Presently, the largest and most influential cen- 
ters of the movement were to be found in gentile lands. The 
center of Christianity had definitely shifted from Palestine 
to the Graeco-Roman world. With this transition, Christian- 
ity entered upon its career as a universal religion, with the 
continent of Europe as the scene of its operations for several 

It is difficult to judge the relative importance for historical 
events of the part played by social forces or the influence of 
outstanding personal leaders. Perhaps most would agree that 
neither is possible without the other. The forces that shape 
movements and determine their emergence and general direc- 
tion often appear to lie deeply embedded in the social process. 
For the most part they seem to operate below the level of 
consciousness and beyond the reach of man's intentional 
control. But movements have a way of casting up from 
their depths great leaders who give expression to the values 
that are operative in these movements and who make these 


values live among the masses. Without the support of the 
movement, such leaders would be impotent, if indeed they 
would be possible. Given the movement arising out of the 
depths of the social process, the function of the leader is to 
interpret and give direction to it. 

Such was the place of Paul in the early Christian move- 
ment. He was born of it. In turn, he has left the stamp of 
his personality, his attitudes and his modes of thought upon 
it. Indeed, it is the opinion of some historians that historic 
Christianity has been really more influenced by the ideas and 
attitudes of Paul than by those of Jesus. ^ Be that as it may, 
unquestionably one of the greatest factors in the transition 
of Christianity from its Jewish to its gentile environment 
was the appearance of Paul as the leader of gentile Chris- 

Paul could boast of a straight-line Jewish descent and mem- 
bership in one of the strictest sects of the Jews.^ According 
to Acts,^ he was born in Tarsus, the capital of Cilicia in 
Asia Minor. In that case, his parents belonged to one of those 
scattered communities that constituted the diaspora. Tarsus 
had for a long time been a large and important city. It was 
especially noted for its literary and intellectual pursuits. 
Strabo ascribed to its people a higher devotion to intellectual 
interests than to the citizens of either Athens or Alexandria. 
If, as Acts represents Paul as saying in his address at Jeru- 
salem, he was educated under the great Gamaliel in Jeru- 

^An error of Protestant theology has been to make Paul too much 
normative for all early Christianity. The influence of non-Pauline leaders 
and types of early Qiristianity should not be lost sight of. 

^11 Cor. II :22. 

* Some doubt has been cast upon the historic accuracy of certain sec- 
tions of Acts. Jerome, who knew Palestine, has a tradition that Paul was 
born in Gischala in Galilee. The difficulty of reconciling certain parts of 
Acts with Paul's epistles has led some critics to abandon the attempt. 
The same doubt is cast upon Paul's education for the rabbinate as upon 
his birth at Tarsus. 


salem, the fundamental forms of his thought would be cast 
in Jewish molds. If he was born at Tarsus, there can be no 
doubt that the cultural atmosphere and temper of Tarsus 
would have tremendous influence upon his intellectual out- 
look upon the wider world of culture in the Graeco-Roman 
world and upon his emotional attitudes toward the type of 
life that supplied the immediate backgrounds of his birth. 

To these somewhat uncertain considerations of cultural 
inheritance must be added the dynamic and creative quality 
of his personality. The criticism of his opponents that he had 
a weak personal presence must not be allowed to obscure the 
testimony of history as to his endowment with gifts of 
leadership in which he united with an indomitable spirit a 
capacity for sustained purpose and action. 

In any case, it was a great moment in the development of 
the early Christian movement when this dynamic leader was 
transformed from a champion of the persecution against 
Christianity into one of its chief interpreters and propagan- 
dists. He persistently and with undaunted courage carried the 
message of Christianity far into the lands around the Aegean. 
The chronicler in the Acts of the Apostles records not 
less than three missionary journeys. The first journey in- 
cluded Cyprus and important provinces of Asia Minor. On 
his second missionary journey he pressed on through Asia 
and crossed the Aegean into Greece, thus transferring the 
active center of his operations from Asia to Europe. Later, 
even as a prisoner, he transferred his missionary activity to 
the Imperial City. His heart was set upon a visit to Spain,^ 
situated on the western fringe of the vast Empire. 

But there is vastly more significance in these missionary 

journeys than appears on the map of Paul's itineraries or 

the localities that mark the rise of churches which he planted. 

That significance lies in the fact that the writings which he 

*Rom. 15 :24. 


addressed to these churches constituted the earliest literature 
of the Christian movement. In these writings he developed 
under the influence of immediate and practical situations cer- 
tain adjustments, attitudes, principles of practical action and 
ideas that were profoundly to influence the later development 
of the Christian movement. While the earliest of these writ- 
ings consisted of informal letters addressed to specific and 
more or less unrelated problems which these rising churches 
faced and were, therefore, anything but systematic formula- 
tions of the basic body of Christian faith, they were perhaps 
even more significant on that account. They record the 
emergence of the ideology of the Christian movement as it 
took form little by little under the stresses of the immediate 
and empirical experience of these early Christians as they in- 
teracted with the culture of the Mediterranean world, the 
principal characteristics and interests of which were exam- 
ined in Chapter VII. It is of the greatest possible significance 
that this ideology took its initial form on gentile rather than 
on Jewish soil, where it was exposed to the influence of the 
interests, spiritual hungers and spiritual needs of the Medi- 
terranean world of the first century. These writings of Paul, 
as we shall presently see, had tremendous influence in shaping 
the attitudes and beliefs of the early Christian movement. 
With the collection of his writings at the end of the first 
century, they were on the way to become in the course of 
time, not only normative, but authoritative, as Scripture. 

Much light is thrown, not only upon the personality of 
Paul, but upon his capacity for leadership, by the fact that 
in the prosecution of his mission he assumed the role of an 
apostle. This was the highest position of influence and rank 
in the Christian community. Notwithstanding the fact that 
Paul was not among the original twelve, he believed himself 
to have been called directly and posthumously to this high 
office by the risen Jesus. He validated his call by his subjec- 


tive inner experience and did not hesitate to affirm his entire 
independence of the original apostles from whom he boasted 
that he had received nothing.^ He even stressed the superi- 
ority of his apostleship by reason of the fact he had had no 
contact with the historical Jesus. An appreciation of this 
conviction on the part of Paul is necessary to an understand- 
ing, not only of his passionate devotion to the cause of Chris- 
tianity, but to the independence and assurance of his views 
with respect to what he believed to be the essential gospel. 
Only one who held his beliefs with some such conviction as 
to their supernatural origin could have left his mark so 
deeply upon the whole development of Christian thought as 
he did. 

Much, also, is involved in the fact that he was able to com- 
municate this conviction in regard to his apostleship to his 
followers, though his apostolic claims were by no means un- 
challenged. That acceptance later gave an immense authority 
to his informal writings, which he himself never thought of 
as Scripture, and led to their incorporation as at least a fifth 
of the New Testament canon. The importance of all these 
facts cannot be too strongly stressed when it is remembered 
that in this way the ideology of early Christianity took its 
initial form on Graeco-Roman soil and under the influence 
of such an original and powerful leader whose ideas and atti- 
tudes were so largely conditioned by the intellectual, social 
and spiritual interests of that world. 

Still other changes in early Christianity resulting from the 
transition from Palestine to the gentile world are to be noted. 
The fact that the movement was established in the cities 
where there was a commingling of races and cultures gave to 
it an individualistic and cosmopolitan character that it could 
never have attained in Palestine with its provincial outlook 
and its homogeneous racial background. The influence of the 
"Gal. 1:11-2:10. 




heterogeneous and cosmopolitan city greatly accentuated the 
process of denationalization and the dissociation of Chris- 
tianity from the straight-line culture of the Jews. 

The further fact that in the gentile world Christianity was 
brought, not only into contact, but into competition, with the 
many rival religions which appeared in the description of the 
preceding chapter had the effect of shifting its points of 
emphasis and of determining to a large extent the forms in 
which its ideas were cast. These points of emphasis and these 
formulations of ideas departed increasingly from those that 
were stressed by those who had sought to win the Jews of 
Palestine to the new gospel. 

Perhaps the least of these effects was the accentuation 
which the Graeco-Roman world gave to the supernatural ele- 
ments which early Christianity had inherited from its Jewish 
backgrounds. Jewish tradition had been steeped in super- 
naturalism. The miracles occupied a large place in the narra- 
tive material of Genesis-to-Kings. The conditions of national 
disaster which were reviewed in Chapter V led, as we saw in 
Chapter VI, to a definite turning away from the possibilities 
of a realistic present to a rescue from a supernatural source. 
By the end of the first century B. C. the literature of the Old 
Testament, now being rounded out into the Old Testament 
canon, had acquired a definitely supernatural character. It 
was to be expected, of course, that Christianity, growing as 
it did out of Judaism, should inherit these supernaturalistic 
ideas, with its belief in angels and demons, its ready accept- 
ance of miracles and its expectancy of divine revelation. But 
when the early Christian movement passed beyond the Jewish 
into the gentile world it by no means encountered a lessened 
emphasis upon the supernatural. The pagan world, too, was 
steeped in supernaturalism. The difference in the influence of 
the Jewish and the gentile world in the matter of the super- 
natural lay in this, that in the case of Judaism the supernatu- 


ral element was largely inherited, while in the case of the 
gentile world the stressing of the supernatural was func- 
tional. In the gentile world the Christian movement was en- 
gaged with ardor in winning converts to the new faith. The 
presentation of the gospel was influenced by the points of 
view and interests of the gentile audiences. Emphasis upon 
the supernatural in the presentation of the Christian mes- 
sage is placed beyond doubt by an examination of the litera- 
ture of the New Testament, which was the outgrowth in 
large measure of the missionary efforts of the early Chris- 
tian community. The use of the supernatural elements in the 
presentation of Christianity to the gentile world without 
doubt tended further to establish these inherited beliefs and 
to perpetuate them. 

A second influence of the gentile world in the placement 
of emphases was the intellectual and philosophical interest of 
the Graeco-Roman world. In its earliest phase Christianity 
was not an intellectual movement. It particularly stressed the 
emotions. Its earliest adherents, even in the gentile world, 
were from the unlearned and the dispossessed. For some time 
there was a definite reaction against learning and social 
standing, such as one finds at the present time among those 
sects that draw their constituency from the illiterate and the 
underprivileged classes. Paul even boasts that among the 
constituency of the church in such a center as Corinth not 
many wise or influential citizens had been drawn to the move- 
ment. In this earlier phase it was the conviction of the mem- 
bers of the rising church that God had definitely used the 
weak, the illiterate and those without social recognition in 
order that he might put to naught these superficial appoint- 
ments of the world and thus demonstrate the more the in- 
herent and supernatural power of the gospel.^ But as time 
went on this temper of the early Christians changed. In the 
• I Cor. 1 :26-29. 


Mediterranean world there was a profound intellectual and 
philosophical interest. If Christianity was to make headway 
in that world it was necessary that it should take account of 
this philosophical interest. Moreover, as the rising movement 
attracted the attention of a wider audience, persons with 
philosophic interest were drawn into it. Their interest began 
to show a direct influence upon the point of view and outlook 
of the growing Christian community. The impact of this in- 
fluence both upon the intellectual outlook of the rising com- 
munity itself and upon its approach to an audience with 
philosophical interests began to show itself in Paul's later 
writings, notably his letter to the Colossians, and in the 
Fourth Gospel. In the earlier document, the letter to the 
Colossians, Paul is definitely seeking to control and direct the 
influence of philosophy upon the Christian ideology. In the 
Fourth Gospel, which was written approximately a half- 
century later, the older Jewish frames of thought have been 
abandoned, and Jesus is presented to a Greek audience in 
terms of Greek thought and Greek interests. When these two 
documents are placed side by side, it is clear what a change 
in the temper of the early Christian movement time had 
wrought, and how completely the placement of emphasis in 
seeking to approach a gentile, and particularly a Greek, audi- 
ence had been shifted. By the time the Fourth Gospel was 
written, in the early part of the second century, Christianity 
had broken with its Jewish origins. It had rejected the Jews 
and Judaism. It had definitely been rejected by the Jews. It 
now faced the further development of its historic career upon 
gentile soil and under the impact of the intellectual, social 
and spiritual forces that were operative in the Graeco-Roman 

There can be little doubt that in this larger gentile world 
Christianity was profoundly influenced by its contact and 
competition with the mystery religions. The common ele- 


merits in Christianity and the mystery rehgions are arresting, 
to say the least. Christianity, like them, was a religion of 
redemption. It stressed the guilt of man and his need of 
forgiveness. Its drama of redemption through a blood atone- 
ment has striking resemblance to such a mystery ceremony 
as the regenerating bath of blood. They, too, had their rites 
of initiation and their purifying lustrations and bath in the 
sea. They, too, had their common ceremonial meal, in which 
they partook of the god. In the Christian drama the God in 
Christ dies and is raised to life again. It is through faith 
in and identification with this risen God that life and immor- 
tality are brought to light through the gospel. The mystical 
experience that has played so large a part in Christianity is, 
in its fundamental concepts and procedures, in striking re- 
semblance to the concepts and procedures of the mystery 

It is perhaps assuming too much to suppose that these 
elements in Christianity were merely borrowed from the 
mystery religions. It is probably nearer the truth to assume 
that both Christianity and the mystery religions grew up 
and took their historic forms to a considerable extent within 
a culture in which there were certain fundamental and unmet 
needs. These needs were operative in the wider Mediterra- 
nean world beyond the boundaries of Judaism. When the 
Christian movement passed beyond the bounds of Palestine 
it became an integral part of that wider gentile culture, re- 
flecting its intellectual and spiritual needs and at the same 
time reciprocally influencing that wider culture. 

Yet another result of this transition from the Jewish to 
the gentile world followed, though somewhat more remotely. 
With the expansion of the movement throughout the gentile 
world Christianity began in time to assume a corporate 
character. Structures began to form within the movement. 
There is evidence of this in the chronicles of the missionary 


labors of Paul, in which Paul is represented as revisiting 
the churches which he had planted in order to appoint elders 
who would administer the affairs of these rising institutions. 
It is especially evident in the later pastoral epistles, in which 
the main outlines of these structures begin to become quite 
clear-cut. Christianity was beginning to become institution- 
alized. The earliest of the institutional structures were un- 
doubtedly functional. But by the time of the writing of the 
pastoral epistles toward the middle of the second century they 
were beginning to become official. How far, within the period 
covered by the New Testament, these earlier forms of organ- 
ization were influenced by the impact upon the Christian 
movement of the Roman genius for organization, or how 
far they merely represent the natural structuralization of any 
social movement, it is impossible to say. Probably up to the 
close of the New Testament period it was the latter. But, as 
the movement developed in post-biblical times, it came dis- 
tinctly under the powerful influence of the institutionalizing 
genius of the Roman element in the Graeco-Roman culture, 
as the ideology of the movement came under the equally 
powerful influence of the philosophic genius of the Greek 
element in that culture. 

In approximately two centuries after the close of the New 
Testament period, Christianity was to become a religio licita 
and to have a place of preference among the religions of the 
Empire, imder Constantine. Under Theodosius, in the fifth 
century, it was to become the official religion of the Empire. 
Christianity was destined in time to take on the massive and 
authoritative structure of the Empire itself. Out of this 
process was to emerge the Roman Catholic Church with its 
Apostolic See seated upon a throne in Rome — an organiza- 
tion which survives to this day, many centuries after the 
Roman political state has fallen into decay. Simultaneously 
were to rise the massive and abstract theological systems of 


historic theology which have played such an impressive role 
through the subsequent centuries. 

Such, in the briefest outhne, was the developing experi- 
ence of the early Christian community growing out of its 
immediate interaction with the intellectual, social and spir- 
itual forces of its environing world. It was out of this ex- 
panding experience that there was deposited the literature 
of the New Testament. It is impossible to read that literature 
except as it is interpreted in terms of the social situations 
out of which it arose and within which it functioned. Like 
the literature of the Old Testament, the literature of the 
New Testament has its roots in the rich soil of social ex- 
perience. Its origins, at least in their immediate and ob- 
servable aspects, are social. 

Chapter IX: The Development of the New 
Testament Literature 

From these brief descriptions of the culture of the Medi- 
terranean world within which the Christian movement had 
its rise and early development, and of the internal develop- 
ment of that movement, let us now turn to a brief examina- 
tion of the literature that arose out of the concrete experience 
of the early Christian community. As in the case of the 
Old Testament, what is here presented is for illustrative 
purposes only. Those who are not already familiar with the 
results of biblical research in this field should consult the 
voluminous literature on the New Testament. 

Interestingly enough, as we have already seen, the earliest 
literary deposits of the Christian movement were not the 
gospels, as they appear to have been from the canonical ar- 
rangement of our Bible, but the letters of Paul to the rising 
churches which he had planted on gentile soil, in Asia Minor 
and Greece, together with a letter which he addressed to the 
church in Rome in anticipation of a visit, and a personal 
note to Philemon. These letters have been preserved in I and 
II Thessalonians, Galatians, I and II Corinthians, Romans, 
Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, with the exception of 
at least one letter which appears to have been lost beyond 
recovery — the first of four which he wrote to the church at 

Nothing could illustrate more vividly the way in which 
this section of the New Testament grew out of the imme- 
diate and concrete experience of the early Christian commu- 
nity than these letters of Paul. They are quite after the 
manner in which a modern missionary in any non-Christian 



land would address his new converts in any given center 
where he had planted a new mission. They were wholly in- 
formal. No one would have been more surprised than Paul 
if he could have seen that in later years his letters had been 
collected and included in the canon of the New Testament 
as authoritative Scripture. Nothing could have been more 
remote from his mind when he wrote them. 

In writing every one of them he was concerned with im- 
mediate and specific situations which had arisen in these 
rising churches — a misunderstanding to be cleared up, as in 
II Thessalonians ; faults to be corrected, as in I Corinthians; 
problems with regard to which the new converts wished ad- 
vice, as in II Corinthians ; Judaising propaganda to be 
counteracted, as in Galatians; gnostic tendencies in thought 
to be opposed, as in Colossians ; a master to be reconciled to 
a converted runaway slave, as in Philemon; a visit to be 
prepared for, as in Romans. These letters are personal and 
autobiographic, as when one unburdens himself to an inti- 
mate group of friends without thought of a larger audience. 
Now the scroll is stained with tears that well up out of his 
sorrows. Now he gives vent to indignation that leads him to 
the verge of, if not to, violent invective. Now he threatens. 
Now he entreats. After he has dictated one of his letters, 
Galatians, where his patience has been exhausted by Ju- 
daising propagandists, he takes the roll from the secretary 
and adds a postscript in his own scrawled hand (his bad 
eyesight may have made the scrawling letters necessary), 
authenticating the letter and adding a hot invective against 
his personal enemies and the opponents of his cause. 

Here and there a subtle humor plays upon the scrolls as 
when, though poor as a church mouse, he asks Philemon to 
charge to his account any loss which his runaway slave may 
have caused him ! Neither is he devoid of strategic acumen, 
as when he brings social pressure to bear upon Philemon by 


addressing his letter to the church in Philemon's house, as 
well as to him personally, and by announcing a personal 
visit shortly, as well as when, at the time of his visit to 
Jerusalem, he made it a point to interview privately the most 
influential leaders in order that he might not fail to receive 
the right hand of fellowship from the group there. In these 
letters he lifts the veil from his inner life and we see the 
conflicts, the emotions, the hopes and the fears of his stress- 
ful soul. As a consequence, we know much more of the real 
life of Paul from his own letters to these churches than 
from the more formal and objective account of his life and 
labors given by his friend and companion, Luke, in the 
Book of Acts. 

The concrete situations dealt with in Paul's letters reveal 
the tensions which characterized the experience of these 
early gentile Christians. These tensions arose in large part at 
the points of contact between the Christian movement and 
the outlying pagan world. The members of these early 
churches were first-generation Christians, and mostly adults. 
To identify themselves with the Christian movement in- 
volved a conversion experience, as was the case with Paul 
himself, though his own conversion was probably for per- 
sonal psychological reasons more dramatic. It meant a break 
with pagan ideas, beliefs and conduct. These tensions in- 
volved such practical problems as food and drink, clothing, 
sex relations, beliefs regarding demons, philosophical views, 
vocational pursuits and the Christian's relation to the state. 
They were the same problems which missionaries and con- 
verts face today with reference to pagan culture, with which 
to a very considerable extent the new converts have broken 
when they identify themselves with Christianity. Then, as 
now, in the mission fields, the ideas, beliefs and practices of 
a lifetime tended to persist after the converts became Chris- 
tians. Considerable portions of Paul's letters, particularly 


the closing sections, are concerned with these problems of 
discipline. They involved reproof, exhortation, encourage- 
ment, warning and definition of the new standards of Chris- 
tian conduct. Consequently, the life of the early church com- 
munities as revealed in these letters is very realistic, and 
intensely human and practical. 

These tensions with the outlying pagan world are vividly 
illustrated, for example, in Paul's correspondence with the 
church at Corinth. He complains that one of its members 
is living in marital relations with his father's wife. Paul 
vehemently rebukes this practice and calls upon the church 
to exercise severe discipline in such a case.^ He insists upon 
a break with practices they had been accustomed to in the 
pagan world, such as fornication, covetousness, extortion, 
idolatry, drunkenness and litigation.^ How difficult these ten- 
sions were is indicated by a letter which the members of the 
Corinthian church addressed to Paul asking for special ad- 
vice regarding certain problems. What should be their atti- 
tude toward sex and marriage?^ Are their widows free to 
marry ?^ Should a wife who has become a Christian divorce 
her pagan husband?^ What is the status of children born to 
a mixed Christian and pagan marriage?'' Should a convert 
be circumcised?'^ What is the status of a slave who has 
become a Christian?^ What should be the policy of Christians 
regarding buying meat from the market when some of it 
had previously been sacrificed to idols ?^ What is the status of 

^I Cor. 5:iff. 

n Cor. 5:9ff; II Cor. 6:i4ff. 

'I Cor. 7:1-40. 

' I Cor. 7 :8ff. 

'I Cor. 7:10-14; 39; 40. 

'I Cor. 7:14. 

■^I Cor. 7:18, 19. 

* I Cor. 7 :20-24. 

»I Cor. 8-10. 


women in the Christian community P^*^ How are Christians to 
think of their Christian dead?^-^ Should Christians be bap- 
tized for the pagan dead ?^^ 

One of the most perplexing problems that confronted the 
early Christians arose out of their relations to the state. On 
this problem Paul also comments.^^ Not the least of these 
tensions with the outlying world lay in the realm of the be- 
liefs of the early Christians. This tension arose out of the 
conflict of earlier modes of Christian thought with the 
gnostic philosophic point of view which would make God 
so remote from the material and evil v/orld that any relations 
which he might sustain to it would have to be mediated by a 
hierarchy of intermediate spiritual beings. If this view were 
to be accepted by the Christians it would reduce the position 
of Jesus to a place in this hierarchy and thus rob him of his 
imique significance in the Christian faith. Because of its con- 
ception of the material character of the human body, this 
view was already leading to an incipient asceticism and to 
profitless practices of fastings and self-mortification. Paul 
devoted the greater part of his letter to the Colossians to 
combating this influence. 

Besides these tensions with reference to the outlying pagan 
culture, there were tensions within the Christian community 
itself. The first of these internal tensions, and in many re- 
spects the most difficult, was that which arose between the 
freer and universalizing tendencies in the gentile section of 
the church under Paul's leadership and the narrow and legal- 
istic tendencies of the Jewish section of the movement having 
its center in Jerusalem. The main features of that tension 
were pointed out in the preceding chapter. The Jewish 
Christians in Palestine were bitterly opposed to the extension 

'"I Cor. 11:2-16. 
"I Cor. 15. 
"^I Cor. 15:29. 
"Rom. 13:1-7. 


of Christianity to the gentiles upon equal terms with the 
Jews. This opposition took on a more positive form than 
mere dissent. Judaisers went out with the definite purpose 
of arousing prejudice among the diaspora against Paul and 
his inclusive gospel. They sought by every device of propa- 
ganda to arouse disaffection in the churches which Paul had 

Paul's Galatian letter, which was the third fragment of 
the earliest Christian literature, was elicited by this tension. 
The whole vehement book of Galatians was devoted to 
counteracting this Judaising propaganda. Something of the 
sharpness and bitterness of the controversy may be judged 
by the temper in which Galatians was written. Paul, whose 
volatile temper could be aroused to the point of reviling the 
high priest,^* appears in this letter in his most irritated and 
vehement mood. He wishes that the advocates of circum- 
cision would go so far as to have themselves emasculated !^^ 
He challenges his adversaries, before they renewed their dis- 
ruptive activities, to show in their bodies marks of persecu- 
tion and service to the Christian cause such as he himself 

Another type of internal tension showed itself in the early 
Christian community in an incipient sectarianism within the 
gentile branch of the movement. This tendency doubtless re- 
flected in considerable part the radical individualism of the 
Greek spirit. It undoubtedly expressed the characteristic in- 
dividualism of the cosmopolitan city with its intermingling 
of races and cultures. In any event, in the church at Corinth 
this schismatic phenomenon appeared with such a degree of 
intensity as to threaten the essential unity of the church. A 
party grew up around Paul, Others adhered to the name and 

" Acts 23 :2-5. 
"Gal. 5:12. 
"Gal. 6:17. 


views of Apollos. Another party formed around the name of 
Cephas. Still another party, whether a mediating group or 
an ultra-reactionary and bigoted group it is impossible to 
say, affirmed that they were the true followers of Christ. 
That these divisions had to do with intellectual points of 
view would appear from the fact that, in rebuking this in- 
cipient conflict that threatened the unity of the community, 
Paul condemns the "wisdom" upon which presumably the 
parties had based their claims.^'^ That this tension prevailed 
generally among the churches on Greek soil is indicated by 
the fact that much stress is laid upon a sustained effort to 
preserve the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace, in the 
introduction to the collection of Paul's letters compiled by a 
later writer in Paul's name and designed for general use 
throughout the churches. ^^ 

To these major internal tensions must be added many of 
a detailed character arising from the adjustment of individ- 
uals and smaller groups in the relations and functions of 
everyday living, such as those of husbands and wives, ^^ of 
masters and servants,^" of children and parents,^^ of the 
various functions within the religious community,"^ as well 
as of multitudinous relationships involving forbearance, for- 
giveness, and mutual helpfulness."^ These relationships form 
the subject-matter of the detailed instructions and exhorta- 
tions at the end of most of Paul's letters. 

It will be seen from even so cursory an examination -of the 
letters of Paul that it was out of the concrete, specific and 
realistic experience of the early Christians in adjusting them- 

^■'I Cor. 1 : 10-3:23. 

^®Eph. 4:1-16. 

^'I Cor. 14:35; Col. 3:18, etc. 

="I Cor. 7:21; Col. 4:1. 

^11 Cor. 12:14, 15- 

"^ I Cor. 12. 

■^Rom. 14; I Cor. 13, etc. 


selves to the situations that they faced in the pagan gentile 
world that the earliest part of what is now our New Testa- 
ment grew. When read in this realistic setting of their social 
origin these writings become alive, real, convincing and self- 

It was by an accident of history, one might say, that these 
writings were preserved for the church of the centuries. For 
a long time these letters in their originals lay in the reposi- 
tories of the scattered churches. It was not until much later — 
in fact not until after the synoptic gospels were written and 
the publication of the Acts of the Apostles called attention to 
the life and work of Paul as the great missionary apostle — 
that these letters were brought out from their hiding and col- 
lections of them were begun. When they were finally gath- 
ered together and some editorial work was done on them, as 
for example by combining so much of the Corinthian corre- 
spondence as could be recovered (the first letter was lost) 
into what is now I and II Corinthians, a general introduc- 
tion to them was written in what now appears as Ephesians, 
addressed to all the churches in the name of Paul.^* 

From the beginning it is clear that the church was imbued 
with a strong missionary passion. It shared with certain 
other universal religions a sense of mission. Its earliest re- 
corded activities, as we have seen, vi^ere cast in the mold of 
winning converts to the Christian faith and way of life. It 
was thoroughly propagandist in the constructive sense of 
carrying the message of Christianity to the remotest parts of 
the Graeco-Roman world. We have seen how this motive 
gave rise to the earliest written records of the movement. 
We shall now see how it gave rise and form to the gospels. 

Up to the time of the death of Paul, the sayings and deeds 

of Jesus had existed for the most part, if not entirely, in oral 

tradition. They were enshrined in the loving memories of 

" For an exposition of the grounds supporting this view of Ephesians 
see Edgar J. Goodspeed, The Meaning of Ephesians. 


men and women who had seen and heard him. But with the 
passing of those who had remembered and lovingly repeated 
what they personally knew of Jesus, a conviction quite nat- 
urally grew up that these oral traditions should be committed 
to writing. It was out of this process that our four gospels 
grew. Their growth was natural and gradual. 

The first collection of these deeds and sayings of Jesus 
was made as late as 70 A. D. by one who had served as an 
interpreter for Peter and had often translated the Aramaic 
oral accounts of Jesus into Greek for Roman audiences. It 
will thus be seen that these accounts regarding the life and 
teachings of Jesus were used as preaching material. In the 
light of this fact one cannot read the Gospel of Mark with- 
out feeling the presence of a Roman audience. Instantly one 
discerns that we do not have in this account an attempt to 
give a complete and systematic biography of Jesus, but a 
selective drawing upon the wealth of oral tradition for such 
phases of the life of Jesus as would appeal to the Roman 
mind. Consequently, the Gospel of Mark is characterized by 
realism, swift action and dynamic power. In this gospel we 
see the figure of Jesus through the refracting and coloring 
medium of Mark's own personal experience as a companion 
and interpreter of Peter and of the interests and needs of the 
Roman audience in the Imperial City in which it was written. 

Matthew, the second gospel, was written some ten years 
later, at approximately 80 A. D., at Antioch in Syria, at the 
opposite end of the Empire. Its outlook was in an entirely 
different direction — toward the Jews in Palestine as well as 
the gentiles. One does not read into this gospel very far until 
he becomes definitely aware of a Jewish audience. In this 
gospel Jesus is cast in the mold of historic Jewish ideals and 
of Jewish hopes, though in opposition to current Jewish 
legalism and as an iconoclast. Here Jesus is presented as a 
great teacher come from God, after the manner of the Jew- 


ish rabbi. The author was familiar with Mark, since he em- 
bodied practically the whole of Mark's gospel in his own and 
built his gospel in the main upon the structure of events in 
Mark. But into this sequence of events Matthew incorporates 
a great amount of Jesus' teaching, such as the Sermon on 
the Mount and the parables. Constant reference is made to 
the ancient prophetic writings in the Old Testament. Jesus 
is set forth as the fulfilment of the long-cherished Messianic 
hope. "It came to pass that it might be fulfilled as spoken by 
the prophet" is a continually recurring refrain in Matthew. 

The great success of Christianity in the gentile world as 
compared with its relative failure among the Jews must have 
raised a difficult problem among Christians and Jews alike. 
In Matthew, this failure is presented in the light of the Jew- 
ish rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. Meantime, the temple 
at Jerusalem had been destroyed. There is an inescapable 
implication in this gospel that this event was a punishment 
for such a rejection. In relating the crucifixion of Jesus, 
Pilate, the Roman governor, is represented as finding no 
guilt in Jesus and, washing his hands of the whole afiFair 
before the Jewish multitude which demanded Jesus' death, 
he said, "I am not responsible for this man's death," to 
which the Jews are depicted as responding, "His blood be on 
us and our children."-^ 

In the meantime, many accounts of the life and teachings 
of Jesus had become current. It was evident that these vari- 
ous accounts should be examined and their essential and 
trustworthy contents be brought together into a compre- 
hensive and authentic narrative. Moreover, it was desirable 
that some adequate account be given of the rise and develop- 
ment of the Christian movement as a whole, tracing its 
history from the beginning in Jerusalem through its expan- 
sion in the Graeco-Roman world to its establishment in the 
"Mat. 27:11-26. 


Imperial City. This task Luke, probably a Greek by birth and 
training, and a companion of Paul, undertook about 90 A. D. 
in a two-volume work which appears in our New Testament 
as The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles. These 
works were dedicated to Theophilus, a Greek. 

In a genuinely historical temper the author examined all 
the available sources, laying particular stress upon their his- 
torical accuracy. He availed himself of the earlier works of 
Mark and Matthew, including most of what he found in 
Matthew but following even more closely than Matthew had 
done the order of events in Mark. From other sources not 
known to us Luke included such other material as his critical 
historical judgment approved. One does not read far into 
Luke's gospel before he becomes vividly conscious, not only 
of the Greek temper of the writer, but also of the presence 
of a Greek audience. The spirit of this gospel is delightfully 
human, and its manner of presentation is graceful and deli- 
cate. Its lines and masses are flowing and well proportioned, 
like those of the Parthenon. One detects through these two 
books a definite concern to make it clear to the Greek audi- 
ence that Christianity had never set itself in opposition to the 
Empire and that, on the whole, the authorities had shown a 
favorable attitude toward it. In temper these books are con- 
ciliatory and present both Jesus and Paul attractively in the 
frame of Greek ideals. 

These two works of Luke not only served the functional 
purpose of bringing together into an ordered form the varied 
and confusing oral and earlier written accounts of the life 
and teachings of the founder of the Christian movement, 
but carried the history of Christianity from its beginnings 
in Palestine through its spread in the gentile world to its 
establishment in the capital of the Empire. In this way it 
reduced legend to history and gave the church a systematic 
account of its origins and early development. Furthermore, 



as was earlier pointed out, Luke set the heroic figure of Paul 
in the frame of early Christian history in such a way as to 
dominate the scene subsequent to the death of Jesus. This 
aroused interest in Paul's writings, which were later col- 
lected and, with a suitable general introduction in Ephesians, 
were published throughout the growing church. With this 
immense prestige, Paul's letters were well on the way to 
become at a later time inspired and authoritative Scripture. 

Not only were the gospels influenced in the selection and 
presentation of their contents by the proclamation of the 
Christian message to the various types of audience in the 
Mediterranean world; they were also influenced by the de- 
veloping internal life of the Christian community itself. As 
its ideas and attitudes developed they found expression in 
the traditions that grew up around the figure of Jesus. Shifts 
in viewpoint and in the placement of emphases are clearly 
discernible in the gospels, so that it is possible to trace quite 
definite strata in the tradition. The gospel narratives sustain 
a functional relation to the inner life of the rising church as 
they do to the Christian community's interaction with the 
surrounding non-Christian culture. The gospel tradition was 
not so much the outgrowth of a historical concern as of the 
interests and needs of the developing fellowship. These in- 
terests and needs had a cultic origin — they arose out of such 
functions as those of worship, of the celebration of religious 
rites like baptism and the Lord's Supper, and of discipline. 

Consequently, it is not always easy to distinguish between 
the original sayings and deeds of Jesus and the accretions 
and interpretations that had their origin in the developing 
interests and needs of the Christian community. One thing 
is certain : the gospels do not present a formal history of the 
life and teachings of Jesus. They present the figure of Jesus 
as it was interpreted and colored by the growing experience 
of his early disciples. The value of the gospels is not less- 


ened, but rather enhanced, by this fact. Enshrined in the gos- 
pels is a realistic picture of the historic Jesus as his life and 
teachings shine like the light of a cathedral through its 
stained windows."^ 

In the meantime conditions were developing in the Empire 
that were to place a heavy strain upon the fidelity of the 
Christians. Under the Emperor Domitian, who reigned from 
81 to 96 A. D., emperor worship became in some of the 
provinces not only official, but compulsory. Up to that time 
the Christian movement had for the most part escaped offi- 
cial notice, except for the violent persecution of Nero as early 
as 64 A. D. But the official requirement of emperor worship 
placed the Christians in a difficult and dangerous situation. 
Under such pressure there was grave danger of compromise 
or apostasy. It was to hearten the Christians of Asia in such 
an hour of trial that a prophet of Ephesus, named John, 
wrote the Book of Revelation. Because of the extreme danger 
of the situation the book was cast in cryptic and symbolic 
form which would be understood by the members of the 
Christian community but would convey little meaning to an 
outsider. It followed the models of the ancient Jewish apoca- 
lypses, Zechariah, Ezekiel and Daniel, though introducing 
many figures and allusions of the Greek world. In this glow- 
ing imagery John held before the imperiled Christians the 
ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God and the final de- 
struction of the Empire. In spite of the sublime faith of 

^ Those who are not already familiar with the Form Criticism will find 
an excellent orientation in Frederick C. Grant's Form Criticism, which 
contains English translations of Rudolph Bultmann's The Study of the 
Synoptic Gospels, and Karl Kundsin's Primitive Christianity in the Light 
of Gospel Research. Those who wish to pursue the methods and results 
of Formgeschichte further will find the following titles important: 
M. Dibelius, Die Formgeschichte des Evangeliums; R. Bultmann, Die 
Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition; G. Bertram, Die leidcnsgeschichte 
Jesu und der Christuskult; E. Fascher, Die formgeschichtliche Methode; 
and L. Kohler, Das formgeshichtliche Problem des Neuen Testaments. 


Revelation, it created a spirit of resentment and even hatred 
toward the state. Notwithstanding the difficuhy of decoding 
its message from symbols no longer familiar to our age, 
Revelation is to this day a source of comfort and support in 
moments of personal and social disaster. 

Toward the end of the first century the first generation of 
converts had died. They had found their way into Christian- 
ity through profound intellectual and emotional struggles. 
This vital experience their successors had inherited more or 
less as a tradition through which they had not lived in any 
such vivid and realistic fashion. Taking Christianity for 
granted without the deep spiritual struggles of their fathers 
in the faith, they were less fervid in their attitudes toward 
it. A general temper of apathy and indifference settled down 
upon the church. It was to stimulate a pro founder apprecia- 
tion of Christianity that some new and unknown Christian 
of persuasive eloquence addressed the book of Hebrews to 
the Christians at Rome. His thesis was the incomparable 
superiority of Christianity to Judaism. This thesis he sought 
to maintain with convincing persuasion by comparing Chris- 
tianity point by point with Judaism. He sought to add to the 
authority of his letter by casting it in the form of one of 
Paul's letters, with such success that many, even among 
scholars, have found it difficult to believe that it was not 
written by Paul. 

The problem of how to face as Christians the persecu- 
tion occasioned by the refusal of the Christians to worship 
the emperor rested heavily upon the conscience of the church. 
The resentment engendered by the Book of Revelation needed 
to be tempered with Christian love. To provide this cor- 
rective, an unknown Christian at Rome addressed a general 
letter to the churches of Asia Minor. He took his model 
from Paul, but he sought to give it the prestige of the 




Apostle Peter whose tomb, like Paul's, was in Rome and in 
whose name, therefore, he wrote. 

Among these literary deposits of the experience of the 
Christians at the end of the first century there has been pre- 
served a sermon preached by one James, whose further iden- 
tity cannot now be recovered. This sermon has come down 
to us in our Book of James. It furnishes, no doubt, an illus- 
tration of the content and manner of preaching some sixty- 
five or seventy years after the death of Jesus. It is intensely 
practical, covers a wide range of Christian responsibilities 
and is singularly direct and social in its temper. It is inter- 
esting to note that at this early period the minister began, not 
with a text or body of Scripture or with doctrine, but with 
the actual and many-sided life-situations which his hearers 
faced in meeting the demands of life in a Christian way. 
There was as yet no body of Scripture, except the Jewish 
Scriptures known to us as the Old Testament, which early 
Christians would regard as the ground and warrant of their 
message, as ministers now generally regard the Bible. 

The Christian movement had by now passed into the open- 
ing years of the second century. As we have seen, its first 
significant, and by all odds its greatest continued, success had 
been in the Graeco-Roman world beyond the limits of Jewish 
Palestine. By the end of the first century it had won its inde- 
pendence from Judaism and established itself as a universal 
religion. By reason of its Jewish origin its earliest thought- 
forms had been cast in the mold of Jewish tradition. It was 
in this form that the earliest propagandists sought to inter- 
pret Christianity to the Mediterranean world with its Graeco- 
Roman culture. But now, with its emancipation from the con- 
straint of Jewish tradition, Christianity was free to address 
itself to men and women who had grown up in the traditions 
and thought- forms of Greek and Roman culture. Evidence 
of this emancipation is to be found in a striking way in the 


gospel and letters of John which are addressed directly to a 
Greek audience in terms of its own ideas and not through 
the medium of ideas which had to be translated into Greek 
modes of thought, as Paul had attempted to do in his later 

The author of the Fourth Gospel and the three brief 
letters that bear his name was a Greek Christian residing in 
Ephesus. His modes of thought were cast in terms of the 
mixture of Greek and Oriental thought as these appeared in 
Alexandrian philosophy. His philosophic viewpoint was also 
deeply tinged with Stoicism. This fusion of Greek philosophy 
with Christian faith gave to his gospel a theological texture. 
In this way the Fourth Gospel is the earliest expression in the 
development of Christianity of a theological literature. This 
was a phenomenon that was to bulk large in the later devel- 
opment of historic Christianity with its creeds, its heresies 
and its great systems of speculative thought. Indeed, the 
gospel and letters of John give ample evidence that already 
the theological trend that was beginning to take form from 
the fusion of Christian faith with Greek philosophy had 
begun to divide the church into many sects. 

But John was more than a theologian. He was also a mys- 
tic. As such he penetrates beneath the earlier objective chroni- 
cles of the externals of the events and teachings of Jesus as 
presented in the synoptic gospels, into the inner life of Jesus. 
For this reason, in part, he made little use of the earlier 
gospels as sources. Perhaps another reason was that in them 
Jesus was so largely presented in the frame of Jewish 
thought. In the Fourth Gospel Jesus stands forth in a uni- 
versal, eternal and human frame of reference. He is not pre- 
sented as the Messiah but as the truth and as the light that 
lighteth every man that comes into the world. In the idiom 
of this gospel Jesus is presented as the Way, the Truth and 


the Life through whom every man of every race might find 
the way to God. 

By the second quarter of the second century the Christian 
movement had passed beyond its initial phase of enthusiasm 
and spontaneous propagandist activities. It had become in a 
true sense a movement. It is the nature of all social move- 
ments that they build for themselves in time appropriate insti- 
tutional structures for carrying on their functions. This time 
had arrived in the development of the Christian movement. 
Attention, accordingly, began to be paid to organization. The 
local churches needed to have officers, and the functions and 
responsibilities of these officers needed to be defined. More- 
over, the corporate life of groups of churches also needed to 
find some appropriate institutional arrangements. It is out 
of this new and latest phase of Christian experience as re- 
corded in the New Testament that the so-called "pastoral 
epistles" were written. The author, an unknown Greek, wrote 
in the name of Paul to Timothy and Titus, companions and 
assistants of the great founder of churches, giving them di- 
rections as to how to organize and administer the affairs of 
the churches. This, too, was the beginning of an institution- 
alizing tendency that under the full impact of the Roman 
organizing genius w^as to build the church into an institution 
molded upon the colossal pattern of the Roman Empire. 

One cannot but rise from even so rapid a survey of the 
literature of the New Testament with the same vivid realiza- 
tion as that with which he rises from an examination of the 
literature of the Old Testament — that it is the deposit of a 
living, expanding and self -authenticating religious experi- 
ence. It has continued to live through the changeful centuries 
because it was at the point of its origin the outcome of the 
experience of living men interacting with a world in which 
are resident spiritual and enduring values. To trace the origin 
of this literature to its source in a vital and expanding social 


experience is by no means to eliminate God from the process. 
In the deepest and truest sense, it is the word of God speak- 
ing through the experience of living human beings face to 
face with the realities of a world in which the deepest reli- 
gious conviction has consistently affirmed that the central and 
activating principle is the Living God. 

This insight into the nature and origin of the literature of 
the Bible is absolutely essential to its intelligent and effective 
utilization in current religious experience. The functional use 
to which the Bible is put is determined by its essential nature. 
The prior problem as to the nature of the Bible is answerable 
only in terms of its origin. Itself the direct outgrowth of the 
developing life of the religious community, it can only come 
to its fullest usefulness when it is reinstated in the experience 
of the living religious community. To discover the basic 
principles by which the Bible may be reinstated in the experi- 
ence of living men and women who constitute the contempo- 
rary moment in the continuous religious community is to find 
the answer to the problem of the place and function of the 
Bible in modern religious experience. From this cursory ex- 
amination of the literature of the Old and New Testaments 
we now turn to the formulation of such principles as may be 
derived directly from the origin and nature of the Bible. 

Chapter X: Beginning with People Where 
They Are 

The fundamental thesis of this discussion is that the 
Bible, which at the point of its origin was the Living Word 
because it grew directly out of the vital religious experience 
of a living and continuing community, can function in mod- 
ern religious experience only as it is reinstated in the life 
of the living and continuing community. If it is again to 
become the Living Word, it must reenter the experience of 
living men and women face to face with the issues of per- 
sonal and social living in the contemporary world. In Chap- 
ters V-IX we have seen how the various portions of the litera- 
ture of the Old and New Testaments were precipitated by the 
evolving experience of the Hebrews and of the early Chris- 
tians. From an analysis of this process we know the facts 
regarding the origin and nature of the Bible. That knowledge 
concerning the origin and nature of the Bible affords us a 
standing ground upon which to formulate principles and pro- 
cedures for the utilization of the Bible in modern religious 
experience. These procedures will be in the nature of elaborat- 
ing the process by which the Bible may be reinstated in the 
life of the continuing community. To that task we now turn 
in the concluding chapters. 

In practice this means that if the Bible is to be reinstated 
in the life of the contemporary religious community the be- 
ginning must be made at the point where the experience of 
the living members of the group is actually under way. We 
must start with people where they are in their experience of 
the modern world. 

However, to state our first principle of the utilization of 



the Bible in terms of dealing with the present experience of 
persons is only to indicate a general approach. In this general 
form the idea is unmanageable. Experience, like religion, as 
we saw in Chapter II, is a general and abstract idea. In this 
general and abstract form it is impossible to do anything with 
it. Like religion, of which it is one phase, experience never 
exists in the abstract. It is always the experience of persons. 
It is always concrete. It is always specific. In order, therefore, 
that we may lay hold of experience with a view of doing 
something with it, it is necessary that we clarify our minds as 
to the origin of experience, on the one hand, and as to its 
nature, on the other. 

When that which is connoted by the word "experience" 
is traced to its origin it is clearly seen to be the outgrowth of 
the process by which the human organism in its entirety 
interacts with the world about it. In its actual occurrence it 
is an undifferentiated process with both subjective and objec- 
tive phases. The subjective and objective elements are so 
intimately interrelated in experience that they can be sepa- 
rated only in thought. 

Experience is always an affair of persons, either as indi- 
viduals or in association in groups. Groups as abstractions do 
not have experience. It is always the experience of persons in 
association with other persons in which common elements in 
their interaction with a common objective world are shared 
that constitutes group experience. This participation of per- 
sons in a shared interaction with a common world is the basis 
of social experience. 

This social quality of experience is one of its most signifi- 
cant aspects. Undoubtedly one of the greatest contributions 
of modern psychology has been the discovery of individual 
differences. Under the sense of the importance of these indi- 
vidual differences it is easy to overlook the essentially social 
character of the greater part of human experience. In certain 


respects it is true that the environing world presents a differ- 
ent face to each person who is in interaction with it, because 
of the unique organization of the manifold factors that enter 
into the constitution of the individual human organism and 
because of its past experience. This organization of the con- 
stituent factors of the self, and this summation of individual 
past experience, lead to preferential attention and to dif- 
ferent modes of personal response. In this sense there are as 
many worlds as there are individual persons. But it still 
remains that the fundamental constitution of human nature 
exhibits greater degrees of similarity than it does of differ- 
ences. It also still remains that the fundamental aspects of the 
objective world are more or less common to all persons 
within a limited natural habitat. It follows that the inter- 
action of fundamentally similar human beings to a funda- 
mentally common environment gives rise to a body of experi- 
ence that in its main characteristics is a common experience. 
This social character of experience is indispensable to an 
understanding of culture as a social product and of the indi- 
vidual's relation to it. The social character of experience is 
more than the common interaction of individual persons with 
a common world. The results of these common interactions 
become a part of the external world for each individual 
person and for the social group. The stimuli of the natural 
world are overlaid and conditioned by these results. These 
results are, so to say, absorbed into the external world.. These 
initial responses are woven into a tissue of impressions, ideas, 
emotional attitudes, habits and institutions that constitute the 
stuff of culture. As a result, the interaction of living human 
beings with their world in any generation is vastly more 
than their interaction with the raw objects and forces of 
nature. It is an interaction with the external world as it has 
been interacted with by past generations of living persons. 
As soon as experience began, the so-called natural world 


became humanized. It is a world impregnated with human 
perceptions, human interpretations, human attitudes and hu- 
man values. So true is this that, in spite of the objectivity of 
science, it is impossible wholly to recover a purely natural, 
unconditioned, dehumanized world. 

Moreover, the accumulation of ideas, social habits, social 
attitudes and institutions is quite as much a part of man's 
world as are its physical objects and forces. It is this inter- 
weaving into a complex whole of perceptions, ideas, emo- 
tional attitudes, technological procedures and values as ex- 
pressed in literature, art, philosophy, science, law, technology, 
religion and institutions, that constitutes the culture of a 
people. For this reason "culture," like "religion" and "experi- 
ence," is a general and abstract term. It never exists in the 
abstract. It is always the culture of a particular inclusive 
social group in which this interweaving of the products of 
experience within a common environment and a common tra- 
dition takes place. This is what we beheld when we examined 
the cultural development of the Hebrews. This is what we 
beheld when we examined the interweaving of many local 
and limited strains of earlier cultures in the Mediterranean 
world of the first and second centuries. It is the same inter- 
weaving of historical national and racial cultures on a still 
more inclusive planetary scale that we are witnessing in our 

At any rate, whether the experience of the living human 
being arises out of his contact with the raw events of nature 
or out of his contact with nature as that contact is mediated 
through the culture of the group, experience is always the 
outgrowth of the interaction of living human beings with 
their environing world. It is in this process of interaction 
that such reality as is known to the human spirit appears. 
For human beings there is and can be no other. Whatever 
possible orders of existence may lie in the objective world 


beyond the range of man's capacity to respond we do not 
know. We do know that, for man, his real world is the world 
of his experience. 

Even so, before we can do anything effective in the under- 
standing or redirection of our own or others' experience it is 
necessary to push the analysis of experience still farther in 
order, if possible, to discover its structure. The structure of 
experience sets the limits to what can be done with it and 
determines the processes that may be employed in dealing with 
it, just as the nature of the workman's or the artist's mate- 
rials defines the limits of what the workman or the artist can 
do with them and determines the techniques that may be used. 
In the same way, what is indicated as to practical procedure 
when we say that in the use of the Bible we must begin with 
poeple where they are in their experience of their world will 
depend upon the structure which the interaction of the living 
person with his world discloses. 

When such an analysis of experience is carried as far as 
it is possible to carry it, it is possible to identify the struc- 
ture of any given experience. When we have reached this 
stage of analysis we cease to think of experience in general 
and as an abstraction out of many experiencings. At this level 
experience becomes an experience. It is specific and concrete. 
It is an interaction of the living person wath some specific 
aspect of his environing world. That aspect may consist of a 
relatively simple stimulus or of a complex configuration of 
stimuli. But in any case it is always specific and concrete. It 
assumes the form of an identifiable response to an identifiable 
situation. Neither the situation nor the response, however, is 
to be thought of as static. Both the situation and the response 
are undergoing change, even while the response is being 
made. Even though it is possible to speak of the structure, or 
pattern, of an experience in terms of situation and response, 
it must be thought of as the structure or pattern of a process. 


Moreover, while an experience in its actual operation al- 
ways consists of an identifiable response which is being made 
to an identifiable situation, experience does not for this rea- 
son fall apart into atomistic and unrelated units. These iden- 
tifiable units of experience flow into one another in a genetic 
process of continuous interaction of the living person with 
his world. Or, to use another figure drawn from organic life, 
experiences are bound together by a tissue of antecedent and 
consequent. In this way experience possesses not only unity, 
but movement and direction in which continual change is 
united with continuity. By reason of the interplay of the 
influence of these two factors, past experience tends to as- 
similate and conserve new experience, while emergent aspects 
of the external world tend to give it new direction. 

It is easy to construe this process of the interaction of the 
living person with his environing world too narrowly, as 
though man were a passive recipient of the impacts of the 
physical and social world upon him, molded and fashioned 
by these forces external to himself. In that view, those who 
hold it affirm that the result is static. Such a view rests upon 
a superficial understanding of both human nature and of the 
external world. Man is by his native endowments active, dy- 
namic, outreaching. His behavior with reference to the ob- 
jects and processes of his objective world is motivated and 
conditioned by desires which demand satisfaction. His activ- 
ity is end-seeking. It is only when he meets with resistances 
in his objective world that are beyond his resources that he 
submits and modifies his behavior according to the necessities 
which his objective world imposes upon him. 

So, also, our best insight into the nature of reality itself 
reveals it to be changing and dynamic. We seem to come clos- 
est to its essential nature when we conceive it in terms of 
process, of continual becoming. The concept of evolution has 
acclimated the modern mind to this mode of thought. The 


new pieces of evidence that come streaming in from labora- 
tory and observatory disclose a physical world of continuous 
change and indeterminateness. 

In the interaction of the live human being with his world 
two active and dynamic elements are at work, each condition- 
ing and modifying the other. Something new, something 
creative, results in each. The possibilities of man and the pos- 
sibilities of nature come to light and unfold in each at the 
point where this interaction of the living person with his 
world is going on. 

In view of this active and creative behavior of the ob- 
jective world at the point where man interacts with it, it is 
characteristic of the religious mind that it does not interpret 
the objective world in terms of a mechanism, but in terms of 
something living, something intelligent, something in which 
values are created and cherished. Generally, religious persons 
have interpreted this alive and creative something that ap- 
pears in their interaction with their objective world in per- 
sonal terms. They have for the most part called this behavior 
of the universe God. The function of the ideology of religion 
(theology) has been to reduce this meaning which man has 
discovered in his interaction with a living world to conceptual 
form. The function of the ceremonies of religion has been to 
provide techniques for bringing living, end-seeking human 
beings into rapport and into effectual working relations with 
this living environing world. Those who have felt that the 
initiative in the disclosure of this living aspect of the en- 
vironing world has come from that environing world rather 
than from man's initiative have conceived this disclosure 
of meanings in terms of revelation. Those who have been 
particularly impressed with man's initiative have conceived 
these disclosures in terms of discovery. Perhaps some inte- 
gration of these ideas into a larger conception than either 
revelation or discovery better fits the facts. That conception 


would be that the living world and the living human being 
discover and realize each other at the point where the living 
human being and the living world interact. 

It is within this structure of an experience — a response 
being made by the living person to a situation presented by 
the objective world — that religious values function if they 
are to function at all. The religious phase of an experience 
appears as a quality of the response that is made to a situa- 
tion. It is a way of responding to a specific and concrete as- 
pect of the environing world. In this regard the religious 
quality of an experience is like any other quality of an ex- 
perience. The religious quality of an experience is not the 
only quality it possesses. An experience may be intelligent, 
or moral, or aesthetic. Furthermore it is not now of one 
quality and now of another. These qualities, to the degree 
that they are present, appear in an interrelationship, so that a 
response is intelligent, social, moral, aesthetic and religious 
at the same time. In this complex of interrelatedness of qual- 
ities, some qualities may exist in a superlative degree while 
others may be present only in a slight degree. It is sometimes 
true that a response may be highly intelligent but singularly 
lacking in social character, as when research is put to the 
service of discovering new and more effectual materials and 
methods of warfare without regard to their social conse- 
quences. Or a response may be high in its religious quality 
and singularly lacking in intelligence. The ideal response is 
one in which all the desirable qualities of an experience are 
present and in harmonious relations. 

In the light of the trends disclosed in the scientific study 
of religion, it may be said that a response to any given situa- 
tion is religious when all the values that are involved in it 
are undergoing some process of revaluation around what is 
held to be the total meaning and worth of life. A response is 
religious when it is set in the total context of personal and 


social experience. A response is religious when it is subjected 
to the cross-criticism of all other values involved in it — the 
intellectual, the social, the economic, the moral and the aes- 
thetic. It is lacking in any religious quality when the response 
is isolated and disparate, and under the domination of a par- 
ticular and specialized set of values. The concepts and pro- 
cedures which are employed to secure this integration vary 
within different religious traditions. But the religious quality 
of integration, idealization and completion is essentially the 
same from the point of view of its functioning, no matter in 
what way the function is instrimiented by ideas, beliefs, cere- 
monies or institutions. 

This, then, is the beginning of the religious life in any 
human being or in any human group. If we of the modern 
world are to achieve a religious adjustment to our world of 
reality, or if we are to help others to do so, we must begin 
with ourselves and others at the point where concrete re- 
sponses are being made to the concrete phases of our environ- 
ing world. Religion is not some self-sufficient entity that 
may be imported into one's experience from the outside. 
When such misguided attempts are made the religious be- 
comes religion — an abstract and even foreign element that 
may be encysted within the living tissue of the organism, but 
not an organic part of it. It is of the nature of the religious 
to be a quality of an experience, diffusing itself organically 
throughout the whole self and interacting in such a way with 
its other qualities as to be inseparable from them. 

This view of the genesis of the religious life in the self 
has far-reaching consequences for the personal and social 
conduct of the religious life and for education. Religion is 
not something that can be approached too directly and as a 
thing in itself. If and when it is present as a quality of any 
given experience, it arises as an aspect of the responses which 
persons make to the situations which life presents to them, 


if and when and where the situations arise — in the concrete 
relations and functions of everyday living, in the family, in 
industry, in politics, in the creation and enjoyment of art, in 
intellectual pursuits. It is not something added to the other 
qualities of an experience; it is inherent in the experience 
itself. That is to say, religion, like intelligence, is a function 
of the situation. 

But this is the beginning and not the end of religious liv- 
ing. Just as meanings which get themselves organized into 
general ideas arise out of innumerable responses to situa- 
tions, so the religious quality of many responses becomes 
diffused through a wider range of specific experiences. Just 
as many experiences become generalized into experience, so 
the religious quality of many specific experiences gets itself 
generalized into a religious attitude on the part of persons 
and groups toward the world in general. It becomes a habit 
of thought, an established attitude. When, through much ex- 
periencing, this permanent and dependable attitude is estab- 
lished so that any and every phase of experience is condi- 
tioned and colored by it, a person or a group may be said 
to be religious. 

It is in the third stage of development, as pointed out in 
Chapter II, that the religious quality of a people's life passes 
over into its religion. The religious experiencing of life is 
shared and public. In time it finds its expression in creeds, in 
ceremonies, in institutions — all of which are social products. 
These become the end-products of a past religious experienc- 
ing of the objective world. In their cumulative and organized 
form these become religion, just as reflective thinking crys- 
talizes into science and philosophy, just as ways of behaving 
in the light of personal and social consequences become 
morals and just as the accumulation of art objects that ex- 
press appreciation of beautiful aspects of the objective world 
become art. When this stage of development is reached the 


religious quality of experiencing the concrete situations of 
life tends to migrate from the center of the experiencing 
process out to the margin of experience in some disparate 
and self-sufficient entity, just as thinking tends to migrate 
to an isolated science, or as the felt appreciation of beautiful 
objects tends to take up its residence in a detached art. When 
this centrifugal tendency in the religious life overbalances 
the religious quality of any and every experiencing, religion 
is on its w^ay to decay. 

This shift from the religious as a quality of the process 
of experiencing to religion as an organization of the end- 
products of a past religious experience creates one of the 
chief problems of religious education. Education in religion, 
like other forms of education, tends to gravitate toward the 
systematic transmission to the young of these end-products 
of religious experience. In Protestant religious education it 
has tended toward being thought of as teaching the Bible, 
just as other forms of education have been conceived in 
terms of teaching subject-matter — mathematics, history, lit- 
erature, language. This form of religious education, as in 
any other type of education, only accentuates the distance be- 
tween the religious as a quality of experience and religion as 
the cumulative, organized and institutionalized detached 
product of past religious experience. The problem of reli- 
gious education is to keep the educative process on the level 
of experience, as was pointed out in Chapter II. In the deepest 
sense it is not the function of religious education to teach 
the Bible. In a much more significant sense it is the function 
of religious education to assist growing persons to achieve a 
religious adjustment to their world through the utilization 
of the Bible as a resource, together with every other fruitful 
resource that can enrich one's understanding and appreciation 
of the religious quality of our common experience of our 


world. Vital religious education begins with people where 
they are in their interaction with their real and present world, 
and not with the abstract and formal end-products of a re- 
mote religious past. And interestingly enough, the experience 
of the Protestant churches has shown that when the Bible 
is used as a resource in meeting the needs of growing per- 
sons, more of the Bible is actually used than when an attempt 
is made to ''teach" the Bible direct.^ 

The Bible as a resource for religious living clearly func- 
tions in any vital sense in the responses which living persons 
and groups make to the specific situations which life presents 
to them. Its value as a resource lies in the contribution it has 
to make to these responses — in helping to interpret their reli- 
gious significance, in helping to evaluate them in terms of 
long-cherished religious values and in helping to discover 
the spiritual possibilities of any given situation. The vitality 
of the Bible as the Living Word depends chiefly upon just 
this direct and immediate relation to the specific and concrete 
responses which living persons are making to the present 
and real situations out of which their significant experiences 

The value of the Bible as a resource to be utilized by 
persons and groups in interpreting, assessing and redirecting 
their experience religiously lies in the fact that, as we have 
seen, every part of the literature of the Old and New Testa- 
ments at its point of origin grew directly out of a specific 
and concrete response to a specific and concrete situation. 
The various parts of the Bible are deposits of these responses. 

^An investigation conducted in 1921 under the direction of the Com- 
mission of Seven of the International Lesson Committee showed that 
during the fifty years since 1872 the Uniform Lessons in which the Bible 
was central, had used one-third of the Bible, in which many of the most 
significant parts of the Bible were not included, while the Graded Lessons, 
in which the needs of growing persons were central, had covered two- 
thirds of the Bible in the 15 years since 1908. 


They are the products of that first level of religious living of 
which we have taken note — the level of experiencing tlie 
world religiously. Religion at these points of the origin of 
the various portions of the Bible was a quality of life. It 
was a function of realistic human situations as these situa- 
tions were set by a developing culture and the environing 
world. At the points of its origin the Bible was the Living 
Word. It will be the Living Word for our generation only 
to the degree that it is reinstated in the process of our own 

In this connection we should not lose sight of the social 
character of the religious experiencing which we have found 
in our examination into the origin and nature of the Bible. 
Religious attitudes, points of view and values were shared 
by a social group. They were a quality of the group's expe- 
rience. They were an integral phase of its total culture. They 
constituted one phase of the total response of the total group 
to its environment. 

In tracing the origin and development of the Bible we 
have seen how its several parts were the deposits of imme- 
diate experiencing. We have also seen how these end-products 
of a past religious experiencing were gathered together into 
collections of writings, such as the Law, the Earlier and 
Later Prophets, the Hagiographa, the letters of Paul and 
the gospels. We have also traced the process by which these 
collections, which were already on the way to becoming offi- 
cial, were gathered together into a canon, first of the Old 
Testament and then of the New. By this time they had be- 
come fully official and authoritative. But in this process of 
becoming official and authoritative rather than vital and 
functional, the Bible increasingly tended to become remote 
from the concrete and moving process of experiencing. This 
remoteness of the Bible as an official and authoritative book 


is accentuated in the modern world. So long as the temper 
of intellectual life was favorable to authority, the Bible con- 
tinued for centuries to be used as a standard for regulating 
personal and social behavior. But with the passing of the 
authoritative temper the Bible more and more stands outside 
the stream of significant personal and social experience in the 
modern world. On the basis of authority and externalism 
there is little hope of its reentering the stream of experience 
where modern life goes on. 

But when the experience of live human beings face to 
face with the situations which life presented in the ancient 
world speaks across the centuries to living human beings face 
to face with the situations which life in the modern world 
presents, the Bible again becomes what it was in the begin- 
ning — the Living Word. For human nature in its basic 
needs and desires has not been profoundly changed with the 
passing of time. And, notwithstanding our deeper insights 
into the complexities of our world, it is still in its fundamen- 
tal aspects the same world which our fathers faced. The re- 
ligious quest still remains after many centuries of the human 
pilgrimage a quest for the more abundant life. In art, in lit- 
erature, in poetry it is not the word or the object that speaks 
across the span of years. It is the experiencing of human 
beings that speaks through the word or the object. Without 
this tincture of a living experience the word or the object 
of art is dead. It is so with the Bible. As mere letter, in 
spite of all official supports and sanctions, it is dead. But 
when the living experience of our kind, however remote in 
time and however different the conditions in which their life 
was cast, speaks through the written word it lives. Now, as 
always, the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.^ 

Our first principle of utilization, therefore, is this — the 
' II Cor. 3 :6. 


Bible must be reinstated in the experience of living men. 
This means that the beginning must be made not with the 
transmission of the end-products of a past religious experi- 
ence, but with living persons where they are in their experi- 
ence of their world. 

Chapter XI: The Principle of Reverse 

Our second principle for the eflfectual utilization of the 
Bible in modern religious experience grows directly out of 
the first. If we are to begin with living human beings where 
they are in their interaction with their world, using the Bible 
as a fund of resources for interpreting, assessing and redi- 
recting present responses to present situations, it follows that 
the order of utilization will follow a reverse order to that 
of origin. 

This principle becomes not only clear but convincing when 
we remind ourselves as to the difference between the form in 
which our Bible now exists and the way in which its several 
constituent parts originated. As we have seen in our examina- 
tion of the literature of the Bible itself, each fragment of 
that literature was a deposit of the response of the Hebrews 
or early Christians to specific and concrete situations which 
they were facing at the time. It was so with the oldest sur- 
viving literary fragment of the Old Testament — the Song of 
Deborah, in celebration of the victory over Sisera. It was so 
with the early eighth century prophets who led a minority 
protest against the tides of Baalistic culture and religion that 
were engulfing the Jahwistic culture and religion. It was so 
with the later eighth century prophets who wrote under the 
deepening shadow of the nation's impending doom. The Mes- 
sianic hope sprang from the disasters that overwhelmed the 
Hebrew culture in the then-present realistic world, growing 
brighter as the night of despair settled upon it. The apoc- 
alypses were flights of escape from realism into symbolism. 
The Judaic and Ephraimite collections were the attempts 



of the southern and northern groups of Hebrews to recover 
the past from folk-lore and legend which bear upon their face 
and in their texture the coloration of the different interests 
and experiences of the southern and northern groups. The 
Deuteronomic law was the direct outgrowth of a national at- 
tempt in the southern kingdom to reform a Baalistic nation 
upon the basis of the mishpat-Jahwistic tradition. The final 
recasting of the J, E and D sources in a priestly frame was 
the outgrowth of the interests of priests during the Exile. 
The emphasis upon the Law and the Book which brought to- 
gether the various portions of the literature of the Hebrews 
into the canon of the Old Testament was the result of a 
scribal interest of the post-exilic period after the monarchy 
and the cultus had fallen into decay. The psalms welled up 
out of the distresses, the aspirations and the hopes of in- 
dividuals and of the nation in situations of suspense, frustra- 
tion and release. The proverbs were distilled from innumer- 
able practical situations that characterize the common 
experiences of daily life. 

In the same manner, our examination of the various parts 
of the literature of the New Testament has demonstrated 
that they grew up in precisely the same way. The epistles of 
Paul were extremely practical and informal letters addressed 
to the little groups of converts that had sprung from his mis- 
sionary endeavors in the gentile world. They dealt in a 
straightforward and realistic way with very concrete prob- 
lems in the adjustments of these converts to tensions between 
themselves and the surrounding pagan culture and among 
themselves as members of the Christian community. For a 
long time these letters were not thought of as Scripture. The 
synoptic gospels grew out of the two- fold felt need of pre- 
senting Jesus in convincing ways to different audiences and 
of reducing to record the oral traditions regarding the say- 
ings and life of Jesus after those who had seen and heard 


him had died, as well as out of the cultic interests of the 
community itself. The Fourth Gospel is the attempt to inter- 
pret and present Jesus in the idiom of Greek thought to a 
non-Jewish, Graeco-Roman audience after the Christian 
movement had broken with its Palestinian origins. Ephesians 
was apparently written as an introduction to the collected 
letters of Paul. The pastoral epistles were evoked by the need 
of some form of effective organization and procedure in the 
expanding life of the churches rising throughout the Medi- 
terranean world. Hebrews was written to stimulate the 
flagging zest of a group somewhat removed from the enthusi- 
asms of the beginnings of the Christian movement. Revela- 
tion sought to hearten the early Christians in their dismay 
at the rising tide of official persecution. 

All this we have had before us in our examination of the 
origin of the various parts of the Bible. A more exhaustive 
scrutiny of the details of these writings would render even 
more vivid and convincing the fact of their origin in imme- 
diate social situations. The order of their origin is genetic. 
They arose within the stream of Jewish and Christian expe- 
rience. Their sequence was determined by the flow of that 
stream. Their origin was functional. 

But the way in which these pieces of literature appear in 
our Bible is very different from the way in which they arose. 
In the Bible they appear as end-products of a remote past. 
They confront us in their cumulative form. Their arrange- 
ment is according to some logical principle, such as Books of 
the Law, Books of the Prophets, Other Writings, The Gos- 
pels, The Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles. In this way 
the parts of the Bible are torn away from their social and 
experiential context. Thus Luke-Acts, which as written con- 
stituted a continuous narrative, is separated, and Luke is 
placed in the gospel series while Acts stands by itself. 

In Chapter IV it was suggested that these portions of the 


literature that constitute our Bible are like the deposits of 
geological remains in the strata of the earth's surface. There 
is this difference, however, that in the literary remains that 
were laid down in the cultural strata of the Old and New 
Testaments, so far as they appear in our Bible the strata have 
been washed away, leaving only the literary remains. More- 
over, further to confuse the modern reader, these deposits 
have themselves been rearranged, so that their genetic se- 
quence is almost, if not completely, obscured. It is only as 
the historical scholar, using evidence in the biblical literature 
itself, which yields only to critical analysis, and material 
from other historical and sociological sources, reconstructs 
the social situations out of which the various portions grew 
that we can replace them in their social and cultural strata. 

It is obvious that only as the social situations out of which 
the various parts of the literature of the Bible arose are re- 
constructed, and these deposits are viewed in their proper 
cultural context, can they be objectively and accurately under- 
stood. Of the function of imagination in making these situa- 
tions live in the present we shall presently have a word to 
say. It is to be presumed that no one would be so utterly 
prosaic as to suppose that a literature as rich in its content as 
is the Bible, especially in its wealth of values, could be ap- 
prehended by the intelligence alone. The appreciation and 
utilization of its value content far outrun the merely intel- 
lectual range of the human spirit. In this the Bible is like 
a work of art, whether it be a building, a piece of sculpture, 
a painting, a poem or a symphony. These works of art are 
the expressions of the zvhole self in a complete experience, 
and can only be enjoyed by the beholder as he brings his 
whole self to it in an act of complete experiencing. 

Nevertheless, understanding is the first step in utilization. 
The full experience of appreciating and utilizing the Bible 
ma)^ indeed must, outrun a mere intellectual grasp of the 


objective facts involved. But if its use is to be sane and 
fruitful it must begin with understanding, which is a func- 
tion of intelligence. In this again, the Bible is like a work of 
art. One of the criteria in the judgment of great art is its 
intellectual content. Art which is only intellectual is cold in 
itself and consequently leaves the beholder cold. But if intel- 
lectual content is lacking art cannot rise above the decorative 
or conventional at its best, or above sentimentality and banal- 
ity at its worst. So, in the use of the Bible, failure to take the 
first step of intelligence in reconstructing the social situations 
out of which the parts of the Bible grew, and of subjecting 
one's interpretation of these parts to the discipline of realistic 
thought, can result only in the vagaries that so often and so 
repulsively characterize much of the use to which the Bible 
is put. Out of this failure to subject the Bible to the use of 
disciplined intelligence grow such absurd and banal abuses of 
the Bible as the employment of proof-texts to support pre- 
conceived beliefs, cross-referencing which rests only upon 
verbal similarity, allegorizing and sheer romanticising, in 
which the reader projects his own wishes into the literature 
or sinks into pietistic sentimentality. 

This throwing of the Bible down into its genetic order 
and of reconstructing the social and cultural backgrounds 
out of which its various portions arose is a result which can 
be accomplished only by informed and critical intelligence. 
The Bible is by no means as simple a book as the great mass 
of its users assume it to be. It is the outgrowth of a complex 
social movement and is as complex as the social process out 
of which it emerged. While long usage within a frame of 
religious tradition may have transformed the Bible into a 
symbol that effectively evokes certain generalized emotional 
responses on the part of naive and uncritical readers, it still 
remains that the first requisite for those who would use the 
Bible for what it is, is intellectual competence. That compe- 




tence includes dependable knowledge regarding the historical 
development of the Hebrew and Christian movements in 
their relation to the evolving general cultures of which they 
were parts. It includes an understanding of the specific social 
situations out of which each portion of the Bible emerged 
and the interaction of the social forces involved in these situ- 
ations. It involves an understanding of the fundamental 
process and results of literary criticism. 

If it be objected that such knowledge is beyond the com- 
mand of the masses who use the Bible, the reply is that in 
that event the Bible has become and will remain chiefly a reli- 
gious symbol. It then becomes no longer the Bible in its es- 
sential historic character, but something quite other. The 
symbolic use of the Bible may be useful religiously, and no 
doubt is. But one should realize what has happened to the 
Bible when accurate knowledge regarding its sources in social 
situations has disappeared. Inadequate as a coldly intellectual 
understanding of the Bible may be, piety in the use of the 
Bible is no substitute for intelligence. 

It must be clear that the meaning of any section of the 
Old or New Testaments is relevant to the specific conditions 
of the concrete situation out of which it arose. In order, 
therefore, to understand the meaning of any of these sec- 
tions it is necessary to reconstruct the social situation that 
gave rise to it. Failure to reconstruct these situations results 
in the unintelligibility of the section, its misinterpretation or 
its misuse. Meanings from the reader's experience or desires 
are read back into it. Or, unintelligibility may result in fan- 
tastic and fruitless interpretations, as has so frequently been 
the case with such symbolic writings as Daniel or Revela- 
tion. Such unintelligent use of the Bible as arises from fail- 
ure to reconstruct its origins does violence to the Bible. It 
reduces it to mere symbolic use at its best, or to using it as 


a means for giving plausibility and supernatural sanction to 
ideas or desires of an entirely subjective origin. 

The principle of reverse order, then, means that in the 
utilization of the Bible we proceed in exactly the reverse 
order of its origin. The order of its origin constitutes a series 
of steps that ends in the cumulative, logically organized form 
in which our Bible now exists. The portions of literature that 
constitute the Bible were the deposits, as we have seen, of 
specific and concrete social situations. In time these portions 
were gathered together into collections and edited, as in the 
case of the Judaic, Ephraimite, Deuteronomic and Priestly 
documents or of the letters of Paul, or of the gospels. These, 
in turn were gathered into larger collections such as the Law, 
the Prophets and the Hagiographa in the Old Testament, 
and the gospels and the Epistles, in the New Testament. 

In due course these collections were formed into a canon, 
first of the Old Testament in approximately the first century 
A. D., and of the New Testament at the end of the seventh 
century A. D. By this time the portions of the Bible that 
were not thought of originally as in any sense authoritative 
were now regarded as Scripture. This transformation, to- 
gether with its antiquity, endowed the Bible with immense 
prestige and authority. Its remoteness from the original ex- 
perience out of which it grew increased. It became a book 
apart from the stream of experience. It became The Holy 
Bible. It is an end-product of a remote religious experi- 
ence. It has passed out of the category of the religious as a 
quality of the experiencing process into the category of one 
of the objects of religion. 

In utilization, the reverse of this process is followed if 
we are to arrive at an intelligent meaning of the Bible in its 
essential character. Starting with this cumulative, logically 
organized and canonized body of Scripture, the process by 
which the writings that constitute the Bible came to assume 


their present form is followed backward from end-product 
to origin. These writings are thrown down into their genetic 
order. When each is traced to its origin the task remains of 
reconstructing the social situations out of which they arose. 
By this reversed process the writings of the Old and New 
Testaments have shifted back from the category of religion 
as an end-product of a remote religious experience to the 
religious as a quality of the experiencing process. In this 
process the Bible has become vital and realistic rather than 
official, authoritative and symbolic. Its meaning becomes 
clear-cut and specific, within the limits of our ability ade- 
quately to reconstruct the living situations from which it 
sprang. It becomes again the Living Word. 

Having emphasized the function of competent intelligence 
in reconstructing the situations of the past out of which the 
writings of the Bible emerged, a word should now be said 
regarding the function of the imagination in this process of 
reconstruction. The situations out of which the Bible grew 
were intensely human. They involved tensions and the delays, 
frustrations, effort, emotions and releases which are charac- 
teristic of such situations. Consequently, their full realization 
(in the sense of feeling them as present and vividly real) in- 
volves much more than dispassionate intellectual apprehen- 
sion. Our use of the Bible for purposes of religious living is 
more than a historical interest, however indispensable com- 
petent historical knowledge may be for understanding. Intel- 
ligence, working with more or less detailed and accurate 
knowledge, can reproduce the framework of these situations, 
and identify the social forces that were at work in them. 
But its function is essentially descriptive and analytic. 

What went on within these frames of situations and re- 
sponses involved the desires, the aspirations, the hopes, the 
fears and the frustration or fulfilment of living human 
beings. Values hung in the balance. Destinies were involved. 


These are items in the real situation which, after intelligence 
has done its work of description and analysis, must be re- 
created by the imagination. In order to realise them, in this 
more fundamental sense, one must as a living person relive 
them. He must feel the tension of the situation. He must be 
taut with the suspense in which the issue of events is uncer- 
tain. His whole self must be set for the possibilities of a solu- 
tion. He must feel the thrill of the release that comes from 
the reestablishment of a livable equilibrium. This process by 
which one enters into these events and makes them his own is 
a function of the imagination. 

In this respect the realization of the responses which our 
predecessors in the religious community made to the situa- 
tions which they faced is not unlike appreciation of a work 
of art. In so far as any work of art is really great, it issues 
out of the depths of a real experiencing by the living person 
of some aspect of his objective world. It involves the whole 
self of the artist in a complete experience. It is real for him 
because it involves meaning in this ampler sense of complete 
expression and fulfilment. If it is to be significant it must, 
of course, be intelligent. The greater its intellectual content 
the greater will be its significance as a work of art both in 
its immediate and in its lasting impression. But if it is to be 
creative, it must have a much ampler content than the merely 
intellectual. It embodies values around which the imagina- 
tion glows, and it is suffused with emotion. In order that the 
beholder, if the art is painting, sculpture or architecture, or 
the hearer, if the art is music, may appreciate the work of 
the creative artist, he, too, must enter into the experience that 
made the work of the artist creative. This he does, partly by 
understanding, but chiefly through imagination. In a true and 
fundamental sense he must make the work of the artist his 

^ See John Dewey, Art as Experience. 


The function of appreciation, however, is much more 
than passive reception. Imagination works with the raw ma- 
terials of one's own experience. It follows, therefore, that, in 
appreciating a work of art, the beholder or the hearer re- 
creates the work of the artist in terms of his own experience. 
He adds something new and different to the original expres- 
sion of the creative artist, while other phases of it evoke no 
response in the beholder or the hearer because there is noth- 
ing in his own experience to which these aspects may appeal. 
The act of appreciation is, consequently, itself creative. It 
represents a new organization of images and emotions evoked 
by the original object. 

Something very much like the appreciation of art is present 
in the reconstruction of the human and social situations out 
of which these great deposits of the religious experience of 
past members of the continuing religious community were 
precipitated. They are more than the mere records of events. 
They are expressions of ideas, attitudes, value judgments. 
They call for appreciation. In order to penetrate to these 
meanings one must enter into the experience that produced 
them. That can be done only by the imagination after intel- 
ligence has done its utmost to give one a faithful factual 
picture of the externals of the event. 

As in art appreciation, there is something genuinely crea- 
tive in this act of reconstructing the past. These events can 
be "read" only in terms of the raw materials of one's own 
experience. These historic events are the stimuli that set our 
own imagination to work in organizing such material as our 
own experience in the modern world provides. Consequently, 
the result of this entering into the experience of the past is 
itself creative. It results in something different and new. It 
cannot be otherwise if the experience of living persons in 
the past of the continuing community is to live in the experi- 
ence of the present living members of the commimity. 


If the literature of the Bible were only a formal record of 
dead past events, the question might well be raised as to 
whether they are worth reconstructing. But they are vastly 
more than formal records of dead events. They are the de- 
posits of the vital experience of living human beings like 
ourselves in interaction with our common and continuing 
world. As expressions of the experience of living human be- 
ings in quest of a more abundant life they are as deathless 
as the Parthenon, the Odyssey, Leonardo da Vinci's Last 
Slippery Beethoven's Fifth Symphony or Jesus' cross. 

Our second principle, therefore, in the utilization of the 
Bible is that utilization follows the reverse order of the 
process by which the Bible came to be. If, as our first prin- 
ciple, we begin with people, including ourselves, where they 
are in their adjustment to their world, so by the circum- 
stances of history we have to begin with the Bible as we have 
it — a remote, finished, authoritative book, the method of 
printing and binding of which is a symbol of its detachment 
from the stream of modern experience. In order to restore it 
to the level of experiencing it is necessary to throw it down 
into its genetic order, threading our way back through its 
historic development to its origin in the concrete experience 
of living persons and groups face to face with realistic life- 
situations. These, for purposes of understanding, we must 
reconstruct intellectually with the aid of accurate historical 
knowledge. But for the purposes of realizing them we must 
enter creatively into them through the imagination, using 
such materials as our continuing interaction with our com- 
mon and continuing world provides, even though these ma- 
terials be drawn from the modern scene in which our life 
is cast. 

Chapter XII: The Principle of Relevancy 

The exploration of the first and second principles which 
should govern the use of the Bible in modern religious expe- 
rience has led us directly to our third- — the principle of 
relevancy. If we start with ourselves where we are in our ex- 
perience of the modern world, when we have traced each 
portion of the Scriptures back to its social origin and recon- 
structed the cultural situation out of which it grew, we still 
face the problem of the relevancy of that ancient experience 
to our own. If the products of the experience of the past are 
to be of value in helping us to interpret, evaluate and redirect 
our own experience in the present, they must in one way or 
another be relevant to the situations and needs which we 
ourselves face. Mere remoteness or nearness of time, while 
they are likely to affect relevancy, do not determine it. In so 
far as human aspirations and needs remain relatively un- 
changed, the ways in which primitive men met these needs 
and sought the fulfilment of these aspirations may still be 
relevant to the eternal quest of the human spirit. But the 
mere fact that we have been able to reconstruct the past in its 
realistic forms with the aid of the historical and social sci- 
ences may not at all mean that what we have reconstructed is 
relevant to modern life. 

The same is true if all the parts of the Bible were of equal 
validity for our experience, as, of course, they are not. We 
must not confuse relevancy with validity. The concepts of 
relevancy and of validity belong to two different universes of 
discourse. We shall do well, therefore, to clarify our minds 
as to the validity of the ancient forms of our religion before 
we pass to a consideration of their relevancy. Validity is a 



relative phenomenon. What is valid for one t>'pe of experi- 
ence, especially when that experience is set in its historic. de- 
velopment, may not be valid when set over against another 
type of experience. It is of the utmost importance that we 
keep this fact in mind in passing judgment upon certain 
ideas, techniques and institutional structures of primitive 
religious life. 

From the elevation of a more mature religious experience 
it is easy to hold in light esteem the beliefs and practices of 
a more immature period of religious development as super- 
stitions having no validity or value. But it must be remem- 
bered that these beliefs and practices functioned in the total 
culture of which they were a part in such a way as to further 
the religious quality of experience. The fact that such beliefs 
and practices are no longer valid in our experience by no 
means carries with it the implication that they were not valid 
in the experience within which they arose. That which is 
valid (the term derives from valeo, to be strong) is that 
which is based upon evidence, and is therefore convincing, 
conclusive and efficacious. That is precisely what these beliefs 
and practices were in the context of experience in which they 
arose as functioning beliefs and practices. In the light of that 
experience they were convincing, conclusive and efficacious. 
They were as real and convincing and dependable to these 
ancient peoples as our beliefs and practices are to us. 

And who are we that we should set ourselves up to pass 
judgment on the validity of the beliefs and techniques of 
other generations of religious persons? Our beliefs and tech- 
niques are valid for us (that is, convincing, conclusive and 
effective) for exactly the same reason that their beliefs and 
techniques were valid for them. They are functions of our 
experience as theirs were of their experience. As long as they 
function in our experience we do not doubt them. Such effec- 
tive functioning invests them with such validity as they pos- 


sess. If and when these ideas and techniques cease to func- 
tion effectively in our own experience, the vividness of their 
reahty begins to dim and they finally pass by a natural 
process into desuetude. Beliefs that do not function effec- 
tively in experience cannot indefinitely retain their hold upon 
the life of a group even though for a considerable period of 
time they are buttressed by logical arguments, habit or official 
sanction. It is their vital functioning that guarantees their 

It follows, therefore, that those who come after us, and 
have a new and different sort of experience from that which 
we have, may look askance upon our equipment of concepts 
and techniques, as we now look askance upon the concepts 
and techniques of cultures remote in time from our own. 
In fact, this is exactly what is taking place in the present 
reconstruction of our own inherited views regarding the Bible 
and our own inherited theological beliefs. These inherited 
concepts grew up out of a past religious experience and a 
different intellectual and social climate. They functioned 
well enough within the conditions that gave rise to them. 
But our experience has changed. We have a different concep- 
tion of reality and of human nature, as well as a different 
method of thought. Because our experience has changed, we 
must have a new set of categories for the expression and 
management of that experience.^ Because many of these 
inherited beliefs do not function serviceably, they begin to be 
overcast by uncertainty which, in time, ripens into doiibt and 

In this way our ideas of the nature of God and his rela- 
tion to the universe, our conception of the nature of the 

^The reader will note that this is a slightly different point of view 
from that expressed by Dr. Fosdick's formula of abiding experience, but 
changing categories, in his Modern Use of the Bible. It is here assumed 
that because experience changes, new categories are necessary for the ex- 
pression of these changes. 


world and man, the content that enters into our conception 
of salvation and the processes by which it is accomplished — 
all these are undergoing profound reconstruction in our day. 
This does not mean that the religious quality is passing out 
of modern life. It does mean that the religious aspect of our 
life is creating for itself new forms of expression and realiza- 
tion, and in that very process of self-renewal through growth 
is displacing forms that no longer serve its ends. 

This should help us to take an understanding and appre- 
ciative attitude toward the religious concepts, techniques and 
institutional arrangements of culturally as well as temporally 
remote peoples whose experience is recorded in the Bible. 
Such an insight into the intellectual and institutional forms 
through which their religious life found expression and 
made itself effective causes us to hold these forms, however 
different from our own, in high respect. Such respect is 
something more than antiquarian interest. It is like the re- 
spect which the archeologist and the anthropologist have 
for the excavated remains of the dwellings in which an 
ancient people lived, for the tools they used, for the vessels 
from which they ate their food and for the objects of art 
that delighted their eyes. Such remains are more than physi- 
cal objects. They are instinct with life. They have been trans- 
muted into spiritual realities by the fact that they have been 
used by our fellowmen in the quest of life, though they are 
far removed from us in time. It is so with the beliefs and 
customs of our religious ancestors. The quest for the spir- 
itual life is eternal, outlasting change and the devastation of 
time. But the marks of change and decay are upon all the 
beliefs, the techniques and the institutions by which man has 
instrumented that quest. Man's experience has changed. That 
is why his categories must change. 

In its broadest implications, the operation of the principle 
of relevancy means that the Bible will be used selectively. 


Once its literature has been thrown down from its cumulative 
and finished form into its genetic form in which it is pos- 
sible to reconstruct the social situations out of which the 
several parts of the literature arose, the similarities and dis- 
similarities of these ancient experiences to our own imme- 
diately appear. But it is not until they are so thrown down 
and the concrete situations reconstructed that the similarities 
and dissimilarities do appear. In their finished forms the 
specificity and concreteness of the historical situations actually 
faced are washed out. This washing out of the concrete de- 
tails of situations renders the Bible general, abstract and 
remote. Furthermore, it has the effect of leveling the Bible 
out into a more or less flat plane of experience, which imme- 
diately disappears when we recapture the real situations in 
which living human beings like ourselves were actually fac- 
ing such specific issues as we have discovered in our analysis 
of the literature of the Old and New Testaments. In the 
presence of the reconstructed situations, the scene, as we saw 
in Chapters V-IX, is infinitely varied. Like a landscape, it is 
rich in near and distant objects, uneven and anything but 
flat. Some phases of it are incidental and decorative; other 
phases present the solemn grandeur of mountains and the 
vast distances of the sea. 

It is out of this wealth of variety and concreteness of the 
experiences recorded in the literature of the Bible that our 
own personal and social experience selects that which is 
relevant to it. On the other hand, our attention is passive to 
that which is not relevant. The attitude of the modern mind 
toward this wealth of experience is much like that of the me- 
chanic in a well-appointed service garage. Training and ex- 
perience have led him to stock his shop with the parts and 
tools that are needed to take care of any possible service re- 
quired by the modern automobile. For purposes of convenient 
and efficient operation all of these parts and tools are sys- 


tematically classified and arranged so that they may be imme- 
diately accessible. The parts and tools that are actually used 
on any specific machine that is brought to the shop will de- 
pend entirely upon the analysis of the difficulty presented by 
the particular job. The mechanic would not think of begin- 
ning at one end of his shop and trying each tool and part 
one after the other. He uses those which are relevant to the 
job, and neglects all others. The physician does not prescribe 
serially all the stock of remedies in a pharmacy in dealing 
with a particular patient; he uses those which are indicated 
by the diagnosis, neglecting the rest. The reader in quest 
of knowledge with reference to a particular problem does not 
start with A in the card-index of a library and read through 
all the books to Z ; he uses the index to find out where he 
may discover the specific knowledge that is relevant to his 
problem. New models of cars, new methods of treating dis- 
ease and the growth of knowledge mean that parts of dis- 
continued models of cars, remedies that have been super- 
seded and "knowledge" that has been discredited by more 
recent discoveries are never used or consulted, except from 
antiquarian interest. Continued use reveals great unevenness 
in the demand upon various items; some need constant re- 
plenishing while others are seldom used. New models, new 
methods of treatment and new discoveries require constant 
additions of new parts, new remedies, new books. 

It is obvious from even such a cursory analysis as we have 
been able to give the literature of the Old and New Testa- 
ments in this discussion that much of the Bible is not rele- 
vant to the experience of men in the modern world. The dis- 
similarities between the ancient and the modern situations 
are too great. For example, the pre-scientific account of crea- 
tion does not at all fit into our scientific knowledge of the 
way in which the planetary and galactic systems came to as- 
sume their present forms. So also the account of the origin 


of man and his "fall" from a state of perfection cannot on 
any account be reconciled with the known facts of anthro- 
pology and psychology. Anthropomorphic and local concepts 
of God are no longer tenable in the light of the disclosures of 
modern science regarding the constitution of the universe. 
The angelology and the demonology of both Old and New 
Testaments are not consistent with modern psychology and 
medicine. The miracles, which solved so many problems in a 
pre-scientific period, do not belong in an ordered world that 
conforms with statistical regularity to a uniform interaction 
of antecedents and consequents. Ceremonial uncleanness and 
the ritualistic provisions for removing it mean nothing to the 
modern man. We no longer contemplate a sudden end of the 
present world order, as did the early Christians. Who desires 
or expects that women will keep silence in the churches? 
Who would now insist that if they wish to learn anything 
wives should inquire of their husbands at home? Who that 
lives in the midst of a civilized society would think that he 
could derive much light from the customs and taboos of a 
primitive, tribal folk? Further multiplication of illustrations 
drawn from the pages of the Bible would be needless. Mod- 
ern intellectual, social, industrial and political life has moved 
far away from the modes of thought and behavior that char- 
acterized the more primitive types of life recorded in both 
the Old and New Testaments. 

If there are many types of thought and behavior recorded 
in the Bible that find no counterpart in modern life, there are 
many situations and issues in the modern world upon which 
no light is thrown by the experience recorded in the Bible. 
The scientific method of thought arose twelve centuries after 
the canon was closed. The industrialization of society is the 
result of the application of technological processes to pro- 
duction since the middle of the eighteenth century. The mod- 
ern city, growing up around the machine and the factory, is 


a new phenomenon. The social problems growing out of the 
interaction of these complex factors in modern life are in 
many respects new and exceedingly complicated. There are 
no precedents in history upon which we can fall back for the 
solution of many of them. Their solution waits upon fresh 
analysis of the modern social situation, upon research and 
upon long-time social planning and experimentation. The so- 
cial will to solve these modern issues is one thing ; the tech- 
niques for doing so is another. 

For the will to find solutions we must look to our sense 
of values; for the techniques we must look to the psycho- 
logical and social sciences. In an evolving cultural process 
continuous change must be reckoned with. Life in the mod- 
ern scene has not only become different ; it has become vastly 
more complicated. Change itself has become rapid as well 
as fundamental. Whether for good or ill, we simply have 
moved away from the simple and provincial life that is char- 
acteristic of much of the experience recorded in the Bible. 
Life in the modern civilized world simply does not conform 
to these ancient and comparatively simple patterns; neither 
can it be made to flow into these molds of ancient Hebrew 
and early Christian thought and life. 

In the light of these facts, such formulas as "The imitation 
of Christ," "What would Jesus do?", or "In His Steps" as 
guides to Christian living require rigid scrutiny. If imi- 
tating Christ or following in his steps means that the modern 
Christian is to attempt to reproduce the exact patterns of 
Jesus' behavior, any such attempt will be ill founded. It 
should never be lost sight of that his behavior was always 
with reference to the specific situations which he faced and 
in terms of the concepts regarding the nature of the world 
and man that constituted the ideology of his day. To at- 
tempt, therefore, to force the behavior of the modern Chris- 
tian into the molds of his specific acts would be to do 


violence both to his own experience and the experience of the 
modern Christian, To adopt his personal behavior with ref- 
erence to marriage would mean the extermination of the 
race in one generation. Should the contemporary Christian 
adopt Jesus' belief in angels, or demoniac possession, or the 
imminent end of the world ? Obviously, in the light of the 
principle of relevancy, the modern Christian should be con- 
cerned with abstracting his attitudes, his motives and his 
values from the concrete context of Jesus' personal behavior, 
and with working out his own situations in the light of these 
values. Of this we shall have another word to say in the 
final chapter. 

Notwithstanding what has been said regarding the great 
dissimilarities between the experiences of the ancient He- 
brews and the early Christians that are recorded in the Bible 
and those of religious persons in the modern world, under- 
neath the externals of the situations there is much that is 
directly relevant in the fundamental nature of the problems 
and in certain aspects of their solutions. The relevancy of 
these issues and of their solutions lies in the field of the hu- 
man and spiritual values involved rather than in that of the 
technical solution. 

One of the most striking of these relevancies is to be 
found in the conflict between the ideals of brotherhood in 
the Hebrew mishpat tradition and the acquisitive ideals in 
the Baalistic tradition. The one placed the supreme value 
upon persons; the other upon property. In Hebrew and 
Amorite society, as in our own society, religion was bound 
up with the total culture complex. The Hebrews identified 
the religion of Jahweh with personal and social values. 
There is nowhere to be found in extant literature a clearer 
and more impassioned and convincing expression of the 
ideals of social justice than in the eighth century prophets. 
As we have seen in Chapter V, the religion of ethical mono- 


theism which was inherited by Christianity grew directly 
out of this immediate and concrete social issue. And through 
twenty-seven centuries this has remained the unique and 
characteristic contribution of prophetic and creative religion 
to human progress. That this protest was lacking in an ade- 
quate technique to make it socially effective is evidenced by 
the fact that this minority protest presently became a de- 
featist movement whose only outlet in the then-present real- 
istic world was an imaginative escape into a Messianic 

Without any doubt this conflict between personal and , 
social values, on the one hand, and materialistic values, on the V 
other, remains after twenty-seven centuries the most funda- 
mental issue of culture. In historic culture these two sets of 
values have been set over against each other. The very quality 
of a people's life and the texture of its culture is determined 
by the degree to which the ends and the processes of living 
are dominated by the one or the other of these sets of values. 
Thus far no historic culture has solved the problem of in- 
tegrating these human and material values into an inclusive 
synthesis in which the material goods of life will be so sub- 
ordinated to human and social ends as to serve and further 
the fulfilment of life. Certainly our culture has not achieved 
such a synthesis. 

In its crassest form this problem still remains what it was 
in the day of the eighth century prophets — a conflict between 
the ideals of brotherhood and the ideals of property. The 
modern historian knows only too well how the economic mo- 
tive — the lust for territory, for the sources of raw materials 
and for markets, combined with nationalism — is back of the 
devastating curse of war. The sensational disclosures of the 
recent senatorial investigation into the manufacture of mu- 
nitions reveals in its sordid and stark reality the lengths to 


which the profit motive can drive men in sacrificing human 
and social values to the lust for gain. 

As these lines are written we are in the seventh year of a 
depression which in its depth and planetary scope is unparal- 
leled in history. It reveals in its most radical and devas- 
tating form the operation of the economic factor in opposi- 
tion to personal and human values. Countless millions have 
been frustrated in their quest for some adequate sense of 
security and self-fulfilment, and have been cast into the 
deepest depths of black despair. So severe is the shock that 
even the present structure of society, built upon the institu- 
tion of property, as the Amorite society was, is shaken to 
its foundations. A growing multitude of the more sensitive 
souls are being driven by these disasters to the solution of 
the ancient prophets of ethical monotheism — ^that society is 
suffering for its sins against social justice, and that there 
can be no permanent guarantee against the recurrence of 
such disasters as have engulfed the modern world until the 
processes of production and distribution have been human- 
ized by the organization of technological industry to serve 
personal and social ends. We of the modern world are be- 
ginning to learn to our dismay that it does not profit a society 
to gain the whole material world and in the end lose its soul. 

Without any doubt the most fundamental problem which 
confronts modern society is the solution of precisely this 
issue which was set more clearly by the Old Testament 
prophets and Jesus than by any others — the intelligent or- 
ganization of the production and distribution of the material 
goods of life in such a way that they will further the self- 
realization of persons and of society. The prophets and 
Jesus, who followed in their tradition, have set the problem. 
But they have given us no technique for its solution. The 
problem of modern society is two-fold — first, to become con- 
vinced that human values and the ideals of brotherhood must 


become the determinative values in any economic order, and, 
second, to discover the techniques of social organization by 
which economic goods may be made to serve the ends of 
brotherhood and social justice. That technique w^e do not 
yet know. A groping after it is the basic meaning of the 
social experiments throughout the world at the present time, 
including the experiments of the New Deal in the United 
States. Perhaps with the growing knowledge of the social 
sciences and with the experience of history we are nearer to 
a solution than the prophets were. Religion can offer little 
in the direction of techniques of social justice. It is enough 
that it should have set the problem and that it should con- 
tinue to keep the issue in its radical character pressed upon 
our conscience. For the techniques of its solution we must 
look to the social sciences. 

For our present purpose this one illustration of the deeper 
relevancies of the situations recorded in the Bible to our own 
must suffice. This one has been selected because it represents 
for all time the conflict of the ideals of social justice with 
the profit motive — the deepest problem which society must 
ultimately solve before we can have a satisfactory and en- 
during culture. Did space permit we might find innumerable 
other relevancies in the conflict between urban and rural life 
in the Old Testament, between the forces of liberalism and 
reaction in the New Testament, between the church and the 
state (an issue rapidly becoming crucial in contemporary 
society, as in Nazi Germany and communist Russia), be- 
tween personal liberty and social responsibility, between the 
prophetic, priestly and scribal types of religion, between au- 
thority and creativeness in religion, between races and cul- 
tures, between war and peace and between a personal and a 
mechanistic world view. 

These relevancies yield themselves to analytic and critical 
thought regarding the literature of the Bible rather than to 


pietistic and symbolic uses of the Bible. Such treatment of 
the Bible reveals unsuspected relevancies when the actual 
historical situations out of which its various parts arose are 
reconstructed in accordance with the process outlined in 
Chapter XL In countless numbers of these concrete situations, 
when so reconstructed by critical and historical methods, the 
basic and enduring issues remain substantially the same, 
while the external forms of the specific situations and their 
outcomes show endless variety. They are the recurring issues 
which inhere in the interaction of living human beings with 
their objective physical and social world. 

In any event, in actual practice the Bible is used selectively. 
Our human needs are like magnets suspended over the rich 
ore of these ancient deposits. In this way each person and 
each social group makes its own canon of Scripture. The 
basis of this personal canon rests, as did the original canon, 
upon human interests and needs. 

A striking illustration of the way in which one's own 
canon of Scripture is made may be found in Bibles that have 
long been subjected to functional use. The author's Bible, 
which lies before him, is doubtless like many others that 
have been long in use. The Bible before him was used 
through some twenty years in the active ministry in meeting 
the needs of four parishes, in preaching, in ministering to 
people in trouble and in the burial of the dead. Its original 
cover was replaced, and the second one has passed the point 
of use. Some of the sections, like the Chronicles, Kings, 
Leviticus and the Song of Songs, are almost as unworn and 
unstained as when they came from the publisher. Other sec- 
tions, like the eighth century prophets, some of the psalms, 
the gospels, the Pauline epistles, James and Revelation, 
show signs of great use. Some of these are so worn that the 
pages have fallen into shreds. The neglected sections were 
not neglected because they were less known intellectually. 


Every book in this Bible carries on its margins outlines and 
comments derived from a systematic and critical study of 
its contents in the light of the best biblical scholarship. They 
were neglected because they were not relevant to the present 
spiritual needs of living human beings in our day. 

The sections to which most frequent recourse was made 
were used in the ratio of the relevancy of the values which 
they enshrined for living human beings face to face with 
the issues of life in any age. Upon these enduring values 
men have rested their souls in the midst of all the changing 
scenes that have marked man's career upon this planet. There 
is in them something like the quality of art of which we 
spoke in Chapter XI. They are instinct with values. They are 
timeless in their quality and message. When laid hold upon 
by the imagination they live. They constitute a fellowship 
of experience in a vast world in which men are sometimes 
frustrated, sometimes overwhelmed with an unspeakable 
sense of loneliness, often oppressed with a sense of guilt, 
often awed by the mystery of the world, many times uncer- 
tain of their way, but always hoping, aspiring and yearning 
for some support when by reason of our common human lot 
the human spirit measures its understanding and courage 
against a vast and inexplicable universe. The living voice 
of that fellowship of a common experience is an overtone 
that surges above the idiom of any race or time. In that 
voice man speaks to man, whether it be through the medium 
of literature or art or liturgy. 

Chapter XIII: Historical Perspective 

Our fourth principle for the utilization of the Bible, like 
the three we have already considered, grows directly out of 
the origin and nature of the Bible. The fourth principle is 
that of historical perspective. 

One of the most fruitful concepts of the modern mind in 
understanding and dealing effectively with various aspects 
of our world is that of process. This concept is very old. Its 
roots lie embedded in the soil of Greek culture. It can be 
traced back as far as Aristotle in the fourth century B. C. 
He first conceived of living organisms in terms of a genetic 
series. The idea of development through a series of acts of 
creation appears in St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas in 
the fifth and thirteenth centuries respectively. But it is chiefly 
to the naturalists, Lamarck and Darwin, and to the philoso- 
pher, Herbert Spencer, in the nineteenth century, that we 
owe the formulation of the idea as a dominant pattern of 
thought for the modern mind. The idea of genetic develop- 
ment has appeared in the light of growing knowledge best to 
give insight into the origin, nature and structure of the ideas, 
institutions and social behaviors that in their cumulative and 
organized form constitute our present culture. 

The concept of process has thrown a new and significant 
light upon the nature and origin of man himself. It has 
helped us to understand his capacities, his limitations and his 
possibilities. Ideas are best comprehended when it is per- 
ceived that they have their origin in the social process and 
that they have a natural history of change by gradual modi- 
fications and transformations arising from new discoveries, 
new experiences and the exfoliation of latent implications. 



The social scientists have long since discovered that social 
institutions are not given and fixed structures, but that they 
are the outgrowth of human need in meeting the demands 
of the changing social scene. The achievements of mankind 
as evidenced by his gradual insight into the processes of the 
natural world and by his increasing control over them are, 
like his inventions, the results of an accumulation of smaller 
or greater improvements in a long process of trial and error. 
The most recent, and perhaps the most significant, use of 
the idea of process has been in thinking of the nature of 
reality itself. The movement of natural events, involving 
continuity and change, is reality, moving from what it has 
been and what it is into what it is becoming} Conceiving of 
reality in terms of process has far-reaching metaphysical and 
practical consequences. Givenness and fixity cease to be char- 
acteristics of reality. So also do "essences" and "absolutes." 
The door is opened wide for relativity and indeterminateness. 
Reality is yet in the making. Man is not merely a spectator of 
the creative event, but a participant in it. From all that we 
know from history and science, the future of reality is un- 
predictable. The more deeply science has penetrated into the 
process of reality the more certain it is that one not only 
cannot foretell the way in which electrons will jump, but 
cannot perceive the direction which the whole of reality will 
take. At the present moment our universe appears to be ex- 
panding, and there are those who believe that in due time it 
will again contract.^ But, whatever the irretrievable past may 
have been through the vast extensions of space-time, and 
whatever the shape of things to come may be, it becomes in- 
creasingly clear that from the evidence thus far in hand 
the very essence of reality is its becoming. 

* See, for example, Alfred N. Whitehead, Process and Reality. 
■ See Sir Arthur Eddington, The Expanding Universe. 


This is the meaning of history. Too frequently the his- 
torian has concerned himself with the recording and descrip- 
tion of events and persons in the framework of chronological 
time. The more serious business of the contemporary his- 
torian is to analyze the process that is the ground and 
subject-matter of history, for its factors, for its antecedents 
and consequents and for its outcomes. That is to say, the 
events of space-time that constitute the subject-matter of 
history — ideas, attitudes, social behaviors, persons and insti- 
tutions — all are to be conceived in terms of process, of con- 
tinuous becoming. It is only through the connection of events 
with their antecedent factors and their consequences in the 
social process that they get meaning. When set in this context 
of a process, events unite in themselves continuity and change 
and take on direction. 

It is in this frame that the scientific study of religion has 
taken on its most significant aspects. Religion itself as it ap- 
pears in the culture complex of any given people assumes 
the character of a process. In its quest for certainty, the tend- 
ency in religious thought has frequently been toward fixity, 
absolutes, externalism and authority. But the scientific de- 
scription and analysis of religious behavior reveal that it 
possesses other characteristics as well, and these are its most 
significant phases. In its essential character it is a quality of 
a people's life. It is characterized by attitudes, appreciations 
and certain identifiable types of personal and social behavior 
that express these attitudes and further the values that lie at 
the root of these appreciations. These attitudes and apprecia- 
tions leave their deposit in the form of ideas, institutions and 
techniques that in their accumulated form constitute religion. 

This constitutes the distinction between the religious 
quality of life in the immediate context of any given situa- 
tion and religion as the end-product of the religious phase of 


experience.^ The religious attitude is the function of the im- 
mediate and concrete situation. It is an affair of self -realizing 
persons. Religion, on the other hand, is the end result of 
experiencing. It is largely an affair of institutions and social 
habit. In this respect it is like science, art and systems of 
philosophy. It is just because these products of experience 
become dissociated from the present realistic situation that 
in their remoteness they take on the qualities of givenness, 
externalism and authority. It is comparatively easy to think 
of the act of experiencing as a function of the present situa- 
tion in terms of process; but having conceived the act of ex- 
periencing as process, it follows that the end-products of 
such experiencing are, though more remotely so, also proc- 
ess. Each of the world's great religions is best understood, 
therefore, when it is seen as a changing and growing phe- 
nomenon of human experience — a becoming, a process. Some 
of its ideas and institutions are alive and functioning; others 
have ceased to function and are passing into a state of decay. 
As a process, this moving something is always undergoing 
change in content and direction. This is no less true of the 
Christian religion, and of Judaism as its precursor, than of 
any other religion. 

When religion is viewed as a process, certain fundamental 
characteristics of any given religion immediately become 
apparent. And these characteristics are of great importance 
for the adequate understanding of any religion. 

The first of these characteristics is that of continuity. The 
relation of beliefs, institutional arrangments and techniques 
in their development within any given religion is genetic. 
They are bound together in a sequence of antecedents and 
consequents. The religious concepts of any given period in 
this development, while the outgrowth of the interaction of 

* For a very clear distinction between the religious and religion, see 
John Dewey, Our Common Faith, chapter i, previously cited. 


the social group with its changing world, are continuous 
with preceding concepts. In this genetic relation to the past 
they are like organisms in the plant and animal orders. 
However great the changes that may occur through the 
adaptation of the organism to specific changes in the environ- 
ment, such as temperature, moisture, altitude or food supply, 
the species is continuous. If through some cataclysmic cir- 
cumstance the series is broken, it ceases to exist. It is so with 
beliefs and institutions as well as of ways of doing things. 

So influential is this factor of continuity that certain forms 
and behaviors that have ceased to function serviceably tend 
to persist long after their actual functioning has ceased. Thus 
each of us carries about in his body many structures, like 
the muscles that move the ear, that have no present function 
in human life. They are included in our human organic 
equipment as mute evidences of the forward thrust of a 
biological process whose continuity persists in the face of 
change of function. 

That this is a universal characteristic of process and not 
a mere analogy is evidenced by the survival of ideas, atti- 
tudes and ways of behaving that have arisen out of the ex- 
perience of the past but which no longer correspond to the 
realities of the present situation. Our culture abounds with 
these survivals. One investigator has listed more than three 
thousand superstitions that survive among the people of a 
single state. Institutions exhibit the same tendency to survive 
after they have ceased effectively to function. In like manner, 
many forms of social behavior tend to persist after the func- 
tions which they served have changed or disappeared. 

These survivals constitute one aspect of what has been 
described as "cultural lag." The actual types of adjustment 
out of which social experience arises have shifted so that 
the vivid realities of life have moved on to other frontiers of 
experience. But so influential is the fact of continuity that 


it takes some time for fresh experience to discard old forms 
of expression and to create new ones that more effectually 
serve the present need. 

However important continuity is in understanding other 
phenomena in our experience, it is of incalculable importance 
in understanding religion, including the Hebrew-Christian 
religion. It enables one to view it as a continuity extending 
through many centuries and the cultural changes that occur 
with the passing of time and the emergence of new modes of 
life and different circumstances. It makes it possible to appre- 
ciate the movement and sweep of the religion which we have 
inherited as a phase of the cultural tradition within which we 

The concept of process also affords us an advantageous 
point of view from which to judge the various stages in the 
development of the Hebrew-Christian religion. It is impos- 
sible to form any adequate judgment regarding any given 
period of a movement if one attempts to interpret it wholly 
in terms of its initial stages, as has sometimes been done by 
attempting to understand religion by centering attention al- 
most entirely upon the immature ideas and behaviors of 
primitive religion. In the same way, it is impossible to under- 
stand a religion by taking one's point of view only with refer- 
erence to its mature forms. One gets a much sounder view of 
the Hebrew-Christian religion by taking his viewpoint some- 
where midway in the process of its development, so that he 
may see that out of which the maturer forms of the religion 
emerged and at the same time the possibilities that are latent 
in the maturer forms of that religion. 

This is well illustrated, for example, by the development 
of such a concept as that of God, as disclosed in Chapters V, 
VII and VIII. The most primitive form out of which this 
concept developed was that of mana, a semi-mechanical, semi- 
personal, all-pervading force — a concept which the Hebrews 





shared with other primitives. But with a growing experience 
this concept was enriched in content and refined by criticism 
until, as interpreted by the prophets and Jesus, it has become 
heavily freighted with spiritual meaning and value. In this 
long process of development the concept of God has passed 
through many intermediate stages of meaning, such as a 
tribal henotheism and anthropomorphism, to the spiritualized, 
ethicized and universalized concept of spiritual reality, gath- 
ering up within itself the sum of all the fundamental values 
by which men live. No specific concept of God that falls 
within any of these datable periods in the historical develop- 
ment of the Hebrew-Christian tradition could possibly con- 
vey the full possibilities of the God concept. From this 
vantage point of history one is prepared to appreciate the 
possibilities that are appearing in current culture as the result 
of the discoveries of science in the direction of the further 
extension and enrichment of the concept of God in con- 
temporary theological thought. 

Or, let us take one of the central ceremonies of the He- 
brew-Christian religion, such as the communal feast. The 
roots of this ceremony are embedded in the ideas and atti- 
tudes of primitive religion with its concepts of mana and its 
totemism. In times of social crisis, when the tribal group is 
in need of unusual power, its members seek to avail them- 
selves of the magical power through direct physical contact, 
as in the eating of the totem. In time this matures into a 
social feast in which the sacrificial offering is shared by the 
god and the worshipper, as in the case of the various offer- 
ings among the ancient Hebrews. In the Roman Catholic 
tradition the host is the body and blood of the Savior God 
accomplished through the miracle of transubstantiation, so 
that in the mass the officiating priest, representing the wor- 
shipping congregation, actually partakes of the body and 
blood of Jesus. In the liberal Protestant tradition the com- 


munion has become a symbol from which have been washed 
out the last vestiges of magic — a symbol by which the wor- 
shipper is able through imagination, memory and aspiration 
to enter into a relation of spiritual communion with the spir- 
itual reality which he represents to himself as God. But, 
except in the light of this later development, one cannot 
possibly hope to perceive in its primitive forms the rich 
spiritual possibilities of what to a mature Christian seems so 
crass an idea as that of eating the god. On the other hand, 
one can scarcely appreciate the significance of a modern com- 
munion service, either in the celebration of a Roman Catholic 
mass or in the observance of the communion in a liberal 
Protestant church, without perceiving the impulse and the 
ideas that led primitive men to seek to establish effective 
contact with some supernatural and divine power by eating 
the sacred object. In like manner, the true and deeper signifi- 
cance of the beliefs, the institutions and the techniques of our 
religion in their widest range is to be gained, not by view- 
ing them as isolated and finished products, but in the light of 
what they have come from and of what they are becoming. 

The second implication that flows from the idea of view- 
ing religion as process is change. Continuity and change — 
these are the two elements that in their interaction constitute 
process. It is impossible to say which is the more determina- 
tive in process. They are the opposite phases of the same 
undifferentiated movement. Without either of them, process 
as process could not be. Continuity alone would give a per- 
fectly static result. Change alone would yield neither stability 
nor direction. It is the uniting of both continuity and change 
that gives movement which is always with direction from 
what it was into what it is, and from what it is into what it 
is becoming. 

In any understanding of the religious tradition in which 
we live it is important that we take note of the fact that 


change in the movement is the result of the responses of the 
continuing social group to the changing social situation. 
Ideas and behaviors of any sort are functions of situations 
in which persons or groups of persons are interacting with 
various aspects of their environing world. These situations 
are constantly undergoing change, as has been abundantly 
illustrated by the cultural development of the Hebrews and 
early Christians, as set forth in Chapters V, VII and VIII. 
Changed conditions, in turn, call for new adaptations of 
ideas, ways of doing and institutional arrangements. 

No movement offers more vivid and impressive illustra- 
tions of the changes that take place in religious concepts and 
practices as a result of the interaction of the social group 
with its changing cultural environment than the Hebrew- 
Christian religion. In the Hebrew and Christian Bible we 
have an unusually full record of the changes through which 
that religion passed in the course of its development from 
the earliest beginnings until the Christian movement was 
well under way in the Graeco-Roman world. As we have 
seen in Chapter V, the Hebrew desert clansmen shared with 
other primitives an animistic conception of deity. For a con- 
siderable period, as we have seen from evidences in the Old 
Testament documents, they were polytheists.^ It was upon 
this older stem of religious thought that the concept of 
Jahweh was grafted, possibly as a result of the contact of the 
Hebrew desert clansmen with the Kenites, the earliest major 
adaptation to change in the cultural environment recorded in 
the history of these migrating Hebrew clansmen. We have 
seen how the concept of Jahweh was assimilated to the cult 
of the Baalistic Amorites when the Hebrew clansmen in- 
vaded the highlands of Palestine, and how the Hebrew reli- 

* For an account of the pre-literate culture and religion of the Hebrews, 
see W. C. Graham and H. G. May, Culture and Conscience, University 
of Chicago Press, 1936. 


gion in its essential and characteristic form arose out of the 
conflict between the Jahweh and the Baalistic cultures. We 
have seen how, in the stressful experiences of international 
conflict and the decay of the nation, the concept of Jahweh 
was ethicized, spiritualized and universalized. We have seen 
how the defeatist position into which the course of national 
history forced the religion of Jahweh led it to a Utopian 
outlook upon the future, with its Messianic hope, its recovery 
of an idealized past and its apocalypticism. Throughout, 
these major changes in the religious concepts of the Hebrews 
were the direct outgrowth of adaptations to a changing social 

These illustrations are no less striking when we turn to 
the concepts of the early Christians, as outlined in Chapters 
VII and VIII. Christianity, as we have seen, was at its begin- 
ning a sect of the Jews in Palestine, differing from other 
Jews chiefly in that Christians accepted Jesus as the ex- 
pected Messiah. So long as the movement remained a Pales- 
tinian movement, its ideology and message were cast in terms 
of the Jewish idiom. The transition of Christianity from the 
Jewish to the gentile world was accompanied with nothing 
less than revolutionary results in general outlook, thought 
and action. The social environment presented by the Graeco- 
Roman world was very different from that presented by its 
earlier Palestinian environment. The gentile world presented 
a very different audience, or group of audiences, with other 
spiritual needs and interests. We have had occasion to see 
how these audiences effected shifts of emphasis in the Chris- 
tian message, not only w^ith reference to the ideology of early 
Christianity, but also with reference to its ethic. The Chris- 
tian message is thenceforth cast in the idiom of Greek and 
Roman thought and of the mystery religions, with their 
hungers for a savior from sin, the guarantee of personal 
immortality and personal union with a dying and living god. 


Again, as in the case of the Hebrews, the ideology, the 
temper and the spiritual outlook of the early Christians 
were the result of the interaction of the Christian com- 
munity with an enlarging and changing social environment. 

These historic facts in regard to the development of the 
early Christians and of the Hebrews as their precursors make 
it possible for one to take a much more understanding view 
of the contemporary changes that are taking place in Chris- 
tian thought in regard to such fundamental concepts as the 
nature of God and his relation to the universe, in regard to 
the origin and nature of the sense of sin, in regard to the 
origin and nature of man and in regard to what constitutes 
salvation. These contemporary changes are the result of the 
adaptation of very old inherited concepts to the changing 
conditions of the intellectual and social world. Such changes 
are not only necessary to their survival ; they are necessary 
to the effective functioning of these concepts in contem- 
porary Christian experience. They are not to be resisted as 
destructive to the foundations of the faith "once for all 
delivered to the saints" ; they are to be welcomed as furnish- 
ing the conditions under which the faith of the fathers can 
come into its amplitude of meaning and content. 

A third implication that arises from considering the He- 
brew-Christian religion in terms of process has to do with 
the possibilities that yet lie in the future. Process, in its 
essential nature, is dynamic. It is movement, development, 
becoming. Consequently, it is impossible for one who enter- 
tains such a view concerning the religious tradition within 
which we live to think of it as given, static, completed. It is 
difficult to understand how anyone who is familiar with the 
historical development of Judaism and Christianity, or of 
any other religion for that matter, could think of them as 
fixed bodies of belief and behaviors, predetermined by forces 


operating outside the human scene and invading human ex- 
perience from some "supernatural" source. 

We ourselves stand at the end of a long series of changes 
that our religion has passed through in its readaptation to 
the conditions of the changing social scene. Nevertheless, 
there is manifested this tendency to think of Christianity as 
something given and eternally fixed, the same yesterday, to- 
day and forever. Christianity, as its history should teach us, 
is a movement that is as certain to change in the future as it 
has changed in the past. It has possibilities as well as a past. 
Before it are the open ways into an unexplored and unpre- 
dictable future as well as precedent and historical record 
behind it. The mode of naive thought that would terminate 
God's disclosure of his nature, his will and his purpose at 
the end of the Apostolic Age does violence to the entire 
movement of Christian history. In the deepest sense it is as 
true of our generation living in the modern world as it was 
of the second generation of Christians living at the close of 
the first century in the changing Graeco-Roman world, that 
"God had resolved upon something still better for us that 
they might not reach the fulfilment of their hopes except 
with us."^ 

Not less than in the ancient days of Israel's idealized be- 
ginnings, Abraham amarch, not certain of his way but set- 
ting forth on his quest for the City of God which he was to 
realize only in his dreams, still remains the symbol of the 
eternal quest of the spirit of man for the kingdom of endur- 
ing spiritual values. With us, as with him, the vision of God 
glows within our experience of the changing conditions of 
the contemporary world, and not in the dying embers of the 
camp-sites that mark the pathway of the ancient quest. 

We in our generation are witnesses to profound changes 
in our culture that are having equally profound influence 
" Heb. 1 1 :40. 


upon the present character of Christianity. We are in the 
midst of deep-going and fundamental changes in our reli- 
gion, affecting its content of beliefs, its institutions and its 
techniques. We are so near these changes, and so much in- 
volved in them, that it is impossible for us yet to see what 
the outcomes will be. But that these changes will leave their 
mark upon the Christianity of the immediate future, no one 
who is sensitive to the temper of our times can doubt. There 
are some who believe that Christianity has run its course and 
may be expected to occupy a lesser part in society in the fu- 
ture than it has in the past.^ But there are others who be- 
lieve that Christianity possesses the capacity which it has 
historically shown — the capacity to adapt itself to the de- 
mands of the changing social situation, thereby developing 
new functions and discovering new meaning and new spir- 
itual resources for helping man to realize within himself the 
more abundant life. The critical eye that follows the chang- 
ing course of Christianity through the twenty centuries that 
lie between us and its founding runs on to its as-yet-unreal- 
ized future and explores its possibilities as well as its history, 

A fourth implication that arises from thinking of the 
Hebrew-Christian religion in terms of process is that it is 
possible to derive from this movement some sense of direc- 
tion. The historical trajectory records not only continuity 
and change, but the types of thought and behavior from 
which we have moved away and the types of thought and 
behavior toward which we seem to be moving. At one end 
of the series within the record of the Bible is the lex talionis 
— an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth ; at the other end 
of the series is the teaching of Jesus that we should love our 
enemies and pray for them that despitefully use us. At one 
end of the series is the conception of an anthropomorphic 
and tribal God appeased by bloody sacrifices and punctiliously 
performed ritual; at the other end is the God of Jesus — 

* See Harry Elmer Barnes, The Twilight of Christianity. 


a spirit without physical location in the sacred centers of the 
religious cult either at Gerizim or Jerusalem, and who can 
only be worshipped in spirit and in truth. At one end of the 
series is a "chosen nation," preferred above all others in the 
regard and affection of a jealous God; at the other end is a 
God who has made of one flesh all peoples to dwell upon the 
face of the earth, among whom there can be no racial or 
cultural barriers but a universal brotherhood — a "new man in 
Christ Jesus." 

Many have been the types of religious life that, through 
the centuries, have left their deposit in the Bible. Periods of 
creativity and progress have been followed by periods of 
reaction in which great spiritual movements have been insti- 
tutionalized, as in the period of the great Hebrew prophets 
or in the centuries that followed the life and teachings of 
Jesus. But with all these vagaries of attitude, interest and be- 
havior, a sweeping overview of the religious movement re- 
corded in the Bible reveals progress, advance, development 
and achievement in the general direction of a more spiritual, 
a more ethical and a more universal quality of the religion 
within whose tradition we live. 

This evidence should lead us to feel in the changing times 
in which we live much as Habakkuk came to feel in the midst 
of the confusion of one of the most eventful periods recorded 
in the Bible — that God was performing a work in his day 
that it was impossible for him, a spectator deeply involved 
in the issues of the events, to see.^ What we see revealed in 
the majestic development of ideas, attitudes and motives re- 
corded in the Bible gives us confidence that fresh light is yet 
to break from the living word of God as its deeper meanings 
are set in the light of the fresh experience that life in such a 
complex and changing world as ours brings to us. This 
sweeping view of history frees the Bible from the rigid 

'Hab. 1:5. 


limits which orthodoxy and tradition have built up about it. 
God becomes to us what he was to Jesus — the God of the 
living and not of the dead. Such a view opens up before us 
the unlimited frontiers of religious discovery and achieve- 
ment of which the discoveries and achievements of tlie past 
are only indications and guarantees. 

The emphasis upon history is thus affirmed. We have em- 
phasized in Chapters II and III the primary importance of the 
present as the locus within which reality manifests itself to 
the observer, and as the scene within which such religious 
quality as we may acquire in our experience issues from the 
actual adjustments which we are making to our world of 
present reality. But this present is always the growing point 
of a historical process. It could not exist except as it emerges 
from the past. By affirming the value of the historic past we 
save ourselves from superficiality of view, from thinness of 
content in our experience and from being set adrift in a 
world with no supporting past and no direction. 

The effect of viewing the Bible in its historic perspective 
gives us something of the result which Lorado Taft has 
sought to accomplish in the field of the world's great art by 
his proposal that the art products of the past should be ar- 
ranged in a comparative exhibit by cultures and historic 
periods. In this way, he suggests, it would be possible to see 
the development of art within the various cultural traditions 
of the world and to trace the development of each from its 
primitive to its present forms. From this sweep of a compre- 
hending view it would be possible to get the "feel" of the 
directions in which art has moved within the several cultural 
media and of the possibilities that are resident in it as a 
phase of the cultural life of mankind. In like mianner, by 
setting religion in the perspective of the long corridors of 
time, we get the sense of movements of vast proportion, of 
growth and expansion in ideas and attitudes and of direction 
and possibility in man's eternal quest for God. 

Chapter XIV: Recovering the Religious 
Values of the Bible 

We now come to the statement of our last principle for the 
utilization of the Bible in modern religious experience. It 
not only grows directly out of the four other principles which 
have been considered, but gathers them up into a compre- 
hending idea rather than another procedure. The other four 
principles are phases of it. They are also procedures for 
making it possible. This fifth principle is that, in our use of 
the Bible in modern religious experience, we need to recover / 
the values of the Bible by abstracting them from the concrete 
historical experience within which they arose, in such a way 
as to free these values and make them available for use in < 
contemporary religious experience. 

In the light of what has been said in the preceding pages, 
we need now only to remind ourselves that religion is an 
affair of values. It differs from other types of valuational 
experience, such as the economic, the intellectual, the social, 
the aesthetic and the moral, in that it is a comprehending 
attitude of valuation in which all other values are integrated 
into a total meaning and worth of life. In this process of 
integration particular values are heightened, idealized and 
projected in terms of their possibilities. Religious values are, 
however, not merely a summation of particular values that 
operate in the more or less specialized fields of human ex- 
perience. In the fusion of particular values into a total mean- 
ing and worth of life, something new and creative emerges 
in the quality of experience. Neither is the religious quality 
of experience something that is added from the "outside." 
It is resident in experience itself as a unique and identifiable 
quality that differentiates the religious quality of experience 



from all others. But stating it in this way, in order to em- 
phasize the characteristic quality of experience that renders 
it religious, must not be taken to suggest that the religious 
quality of experience is therefore something apart from the 
other qualities of experience. Experiences of any and every 
sort constitute the subject-matter of religion. It is in the 
comprehendingness, the integration and the idealization of 
all forms of experience that their religious quality consists. 
Any particular experience is religious when it is viewed, 
judged and conditioned in its execution by reference to the 
total meaning and worth of life when life is set in its uni- 
versal context. 

From our analysis of experience we have seen that ideas, 
techniques, institutions and values arise within the stream of 
personal and social experience. They are phases of man's 
total interaction with his objective world. When traced back 
to their ultimate origin, they root in the specific and concrete 
responses which persons and groups of persons make to spe- 
cific and concrete situations. Through innumerable responses 
and social sharing and use they are generalized and organized 
into systems of thought, bodies of technique, stable institu- 
tions and persistent attitudes that together constitute man's 
culture and his working equipment for transacting the busi- 
ness of practical living. 

This origin of ideas, techniques, institutions and values 
renders them more or less relevant to the particular stream 
of experience within which they arise. They vary with par- 
ticular social groups and with successive periods in the de- 
velopment of the culture of a particular social group. This 
relevancy to the contemporary experience of the group 
renders them more or less tentative and temporary, at least 
in their formulation. Consequently, they tend to have their 
natural history of emergence, of effective functioning and 


of desuetude. It is, therefore, impossible to generalize too 
broadly upon the ideas, the ways of doing things, the insti- 
tutions, the art and the values of "mankind." The facts of 
history and observation justify one in speaking of the ideas, 
the ways of doing, the institutions, the art and the standards 
of particular social groups, such as the Greeks, the Romans, 
the Teutons, the English, the Japanese, the Indians, the 
Chinese and the Americans. Even within these larger social 
groups there are many differences of thought and attitude 
and ways of doing things, as among the New Englanders, 
the people of the Middle West, the dwellers in the Inter- 
mountain Region and the Southerners, in the United States. 
Each of the "sections" has its dialect, its emotional attitudes 
and its characteristic mores — all variants of a more general- 
ized "American" pattern. Of course, in the face of persistent 
modes of thought and action which give a peculiar flavor to 
these intracultural differentiations fundamental change is in- 
evitable, as in the case of the "New South" after the Civil 
War, and the current changes in attitudes toward social prob- 
lems in the nation as a whole subsequent to the World War 
and the economic collapse of 1929. 

Nevertheless, there is a differential rate of change among 
these various cultural items. Furthermore, the rate of change 
differs greatly with the stage of cultural development. It is 
a well-known fact that change among peoples of advanced 
culture is relatively much more rapid than among retarded 
peoples. This is particularly true of peoples that have come 
under the influence of science. According to the analysts of 
the report on Recent Social Trends in the United States, 
as was earlier pointed out, ideas and techniques are most 
susceptible to rapid change, with social institutions following 
close behind. On the other hand, the so-called "cultural" in- 
terests (in the narrow sense) such as art, education, morals 


and religion, are the slowest to respond to change — religion 
perhaps the slowest of all. 

The reason for this differential rate of change is not far 
to seek. All of these instruments and products of culture are 
phases of the group's response to specific and concrete social 
situations. They are integral aspects of the experience which 
is the outgrowth of such responses. Consequently, when the 
situations change, the responses change. Ideas are the mean- 
ings which emerge out of these experiences. In their very 
nature they are more immediate to the understanding and 
control of responses to situations. The same is true of tech- 
niques. They are instruments of response. Both ideas and 
techniques, therefore, tend toward specificity and concrete- 
ness and, as a result, toward immediacy. They are more re- 
sponsive to shifts in situations and responses. By their nature, 
institutions, which furnish the social structures within which 
the processes of collective life go on, are less responsive to 
change. They are farther removed from the immediacy of 
concrete situations. 

The slowest of all phases of the culture of a people to 
change are art, letters, morals and religion. This is true be- 
cause, while they, like ideas, techniques and institutions, 
have their origin in the stream of experience, they are more 
generalized, more remote from tlie immediate situations and 
operate at deeper levels of man's interaction with his world. 
They are concerned in one way or another with values. 
Values are rooted deeply in man's desires and needs. These, 
whether they be for food, sex, security, response, new ex- 
perience or recognition, are relatively constant. Being so 
deeply embedded in the constitution of human nature, they 
are in a sense to some extent relatively beyond the reach of 
immediate change in the environment. Psychologically, it is 
these desires of human nature that direct the attention of the 
seeking organism to those phases of the material and social 


environment that are capable of bringing satisfaction. It is 
this capacity of objects in the environing world to bring sat- 
isfaction to these desires that endows them with value. Value, 
psychologically, is a function of the person or group in re- 
lation to satisfaction-bringing ends. Desire and value are 
only different phases of an undifferentiated process which 
appears in the subject as desire and in the object as value. It 
is concerned with ends. It determines the character of all 
end-seeking activities. Ideas and techniques, along with insti- 
tutions, are instrumental to these end-seeking desires. Upon 
the progressive satisfaction of these desires the specific forms 
of human behavior depend. 

This is not to suggest, of course, that desires do not 
change. They do. But their change is more in the direction of 
organization and refinement than in the basic desires them- 
selves. Man has shown the capacity to become conscious of 
his desires, to criticize them, and, in the higher reaches of his 
cultural attainment, to organize them in accordance with 
some scale of values. At these higher levels human nature 
has shown the capacity to have certain kinds of desires.^ But 
beneath all refinement and organization of rational desire lie 
forever the raw impulses that furnish the ground for values 
and ends. No social organization which ignores them or too 
consistently frustrates them can hope permanently to endure. 
The basic desires of human beings will not in the long run 
be denied. Back of all of man's interaction with his objective 
world are these fundamental human desires — bred into his 
bones and tissues. This explains why his attitude toward his 
objective world is forever active and controlling, becoming 
acquiescent and passive only when it becomes impossible for 
him to do anything with his world. Even then, his acquies- 
cence is in obedience to his imperious desire for the greatest 

* See George A. Coe, The Psychology of Religion, chap. iv. 


degree of satisfaction and well-being at the points where, 
and to the extent that, his world has proved intractable. 

If this quality of relative permanency is characteristic of 
any and all values whatsoever, it is especially true of that 
organization, that integration and that idealization of values 
into a total meaning and worth of life which is religion. As 
generalized values, religious values are still more remote 
from the immediate situation and its concrete response. In its 
essence religion is, as the Founder of Christianity with rare 
spiritual insight suggested, the desire to have life and to have 
it abundantly.^ This makes of religion an eternal quest for 
the realization of those fundamental and enduring values 
that survive the vicissitudes of change, the decay of rational 
ideas and the wreck of institutions. 

In religious values, therefore, we are dealing with some- 
thing more permanent than intellectual ideas, technologies 
or institutions. This is not to suggest, of course, that the 
forms in which these values find expression, or the ideolo- 
gies, techniques and institutions by which they are im- 
plemented, will not change. Neither is it to suggest that new 
organizations of value will not appear as the social situation 
changes. But it is to suggest that, as long as human nature 
remains human nature, the urge for the fulfilment of life 
will abide relatively unchanged. "What are we to do with 
our lives ?" — that is the eternal question that haunts man in 
every generation and under every condition of intellectual 
and technological advance. Never was this inquiry more ur- 
gent or persistent than in the modern world when, notwith- 
standing the recent accumulation of scientific knowledge and 
the amazing achievements of technology, we still, or perhaps 
more than ever, find ourselves asking what these things mean 
with reference to man's undying concern — the enrichment of 
his life in terms of the higher and enduring spiritual satisfac- 

®Jno. io:io. 


tions.^ It is man's fundamental and persistent desire for the 
fulfilment of life that leads him forever to return to the 
question, "What doth it profit a man, to gain the whole 
world, and forfeit his life?" 

Now, it is the chief significance of the Bible that it en- 
shrines the quest of the Hebrews and the Christians for this 
integration of the values of life that rise unceasingly from 
the unfathomable depths of man's desires. It was the un- 
ending quest from the time that Abraham is said to have 
left his native people under the urge of a great hope, seeking 
from afar "the city which hath the foundations, whose 
builder and maker is God," to the wistful hopes of the strug- 
gling Christian community in the distraught pagan world of 
the beginning of the second century. "These all," including 
the Christians of the first and second centuries, "died in the 
faith, not having received the promises, but having seen 
them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that 
they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth."* It is the 
wistful note, deeply tinged with tragedy, of a hope that can- 
not be quenched and of a quest that will never end as long 
as man is beset and made restless by desires that call for 
higher satisfaction. The Bible is not a book on science. The 
changing ideologies of the Bible are relevant to the ever- 
changing social situation. Neither is it a repository of reli- 
gious techniques that have resulted from the solution of the 
problem. These techniques, too, are children of fleeting time 
and change. Neither may we look to the Bible for authori- 
tative guidance as to the institutional forms which man's 
religious quest may assume. These, too, have grown out of 

'See H. G. Wells' brochure, IVhat Are We to Do with Our Lives? 
It is interesting to note that on Mr. Wells' own account he was driven 
to ask this question after he had written his Outline of History and 
his Work, Wealth, and Happiness of Mankind. It is also significant 
that Mr. Wells finds the answer to this question in terms of religion. 

*Heb. 11:13 (American Standard Version). 





the constantly changing stream of man's experience. But 
that which abides through patriarch, prophet, priest, Jesus 
and the Christian martyrs is this enduring quest for the 
integration of values into a total meaning and worth of 
life which rises above the reach of time and change, and 
which outlasts them. These are still the same values that 
sustain our lives in the modern world and lend dignity and 
worth to the human adventure. 

The ways in which this integration is sought, and to a 
measurable extent achieved, differ with the passing of time 
and with cultural maturity within a given group, as they 
dififer contemporaneously among different groups. The es- 
sential thing in the understanding of religious behavior in 
any group or in any period is the insight that, by whatever 
devices they may use, religious persons are seeking the same 
end — the integration of all the values upon which life de- 
pends and the utilization of the enduring values that issue 
from such an integration for the fulfilment of life on its 
highest levels. The Buddhist by his renunciation of desire, 
and the Christian through his affirmation and organization 
of desire, are both seeking the same end. They both call it 
salvation. The one ends in a dreamless Nirvana ; the other in 
the heaven of his dreams. The primitive Hebrew, kneeling 
before an unhewn altar laden with the fruit of his flock or 
his field as an offering to an anthropomorphic deity, is seek- 
ing the same end as the prophet, who repudiated all sacrifice 
as an approach to God and who affirmed that what is re- 
quired of man in his relation to an ethical and spiritual deity 
is justice, kindness and humility,^ or as Jesus, who affirmed 
that God is an unlocalized spirit and that those who approach 
him must do so in terms of his own nature — in spirit and in 
truth.® Among modern Christians, the fundamentalist, the 

^ Jer. 7 :22 ; Micah 6:8. 
•Jno. 4:23. 


emotionalist and the modernist are seeking the same end, 
though in doing so they employ very different ideologies and 
very different techniques. Thus, the religious quest is a com- 
mon and persistent attitude of the human spirit, concerned 
with some adequate organization of values represented and 
made available for practical use by symbols, rituals and in- 

The concern of the modern religious person or group is to 
discover what this religious quality of experience is under 
the conditions of contemporary culture, and to seize upon 
those concepts and those procedures that will most effectively 
help him to achieve this viable integration of his experience 
as a self-realizing person under the conditions which life in 
the modern world imposes upon him. This he cannot hope to 
accomplish with intelligence and effectiveness without the in- 
sights which the religious experience of the race places at his 
disposal. For each individual person and for each successive 
group the quest must be taken up anew. But it is not a new 
quest. It is as old as the race itself and coextensive with 
human culture. The refrain of the endlessly marching pil- 
grims, always beset with wistful uncertainty, has through 
the ages been that of the perplexed Job : 

that I knew where I might find him. 
That I might come to his dwelling ! . . . . 
Lo, I go forward, but he is not ; 

And backward, but I perceive him not ; 
On the left I seek him, but cannot see him ; 

1 turn to the right, but do not behold him.*^ 

To which the antiphonal response of the same marching pil- 
grims has always been : 

You shall call me, and I will answer you ; you shall pray to 
me and I will listen to you ; you shall seek me and you shall find 

'Job 23:3-9. 


me ; for when you seek me with all your heart, I will let myself 
be found by you.^ 

Nor is this alternating mood of bewilderment and calm 
assurance absent from the uniquely serene consciousness of 
Jesus. In the moment of his deepest tragedy the old refrain 
breaks forth into a poignant cry, as though under the dev- 
astations of ultimate disaster the firm faith that had sus- 
tained him through his stressful career were dissolving into 
an empty and futile illusion : 

My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?® 

But the utter despair of the distraught self in a dismembered 
world was only for the moment. A completely united self 
found its oneness with a consistent and rational universe: 

Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands.^^ 

This ancient refrain recurs in the personal religious ex- 
perience of the greatest figure of the early Christian com- 
munity after Jesus. In the agony of frustration, Paul ex- 
claims in what is perhaps the classic expression of the divided 

I do not understand what I am doing, for I do not what I 

want to do ; I do the things that I hate I can will, but I 

cannot do what is right. I do not the good things which I want 
to do; I do the wrong things that I do not want to do ... . 
What a wretched man I am! Who can save me from this 
doomed body ?^^ 

In him, also, this outcry of the divided self in an utterly 
irrational world is followed by the cry of discovery of peace 
and adequacy in the united self en rapport with a reality of 

* Jer. 29:12, 13. 
'Matt. 27:46. 
^''Luke 23:46. 
"Rom. 7:15-24. 


values, like brilliant sunlight on a wet and torn landscape 
after the fury of storm : 

There is no condemnation any more for those who are in 
union with Christ Jesus. For the life-giving law of the Spirit 
through Christ Jesus has freed me from the law of sin and 

Nor does this refrain die away like the Song of the Volga 
Boatmen. It persists in the classical figures of Christian his- 
tory, as in St. Augustine. It is still the cry of men in the 
distraught scene of the modern world. It is the cry of men 
for some viable integration of the dismembered self in a 
dismembered world. Under the conditions of modern life, it 
is more and more becoming the inarticulate cry of society it- 
self, seeking blindly for some light upon the ends of living 
and for some resisting and dependable body of values upon 
which the self may rest with some sense of the wholeness 
of the self and of reality. There is in this cry the same deep 
note of wistfulness and tragedy. For the moment there is 
less of certainty in the antiphonal refrain. This arises out of 
the fact that modern science has given us a world of such 
vastness and of such complexity that it is difficult to find any 
unity in it. Still more difficult is it for the modern mind to 
find expression for such unity as the modern world seems to 
possess in terms of the traditional symbols that arose out of 
a much simpler intellectual experience and a much simpler 
social order. 

What is more, the social forces that are operative in our 
times seem to be beyond the reach of either our understand- 
ing or control. At the moment when the modern mind was 
confirmed in the belief that war was impossible, the whole 
foundation of the social structure collapsed and the entire 
civilized world was hurled into the deepest abyss of carnage 
and hate that history has recorded. The bright dream of 

"Rom. 8:1, 2. 


statesmen that a League of Nations could be created that 
would guarantee the permanent peace of the civilized world 
has proved to be "the great illusion" in the face of the mili- 
taristic ambitions of nations that pay no attention to the 
pronouncements of the League. At the present moment there 
is a wide-spread conviction and fear that another war of 
world magnitude is imminent. We are now in the seventh year 
of a world-wide economic depression that has cast countless 
millions in many nations into the depths of black despair. The 
nobly conceived experiments to right these intolerable condi- 
tions have thus far proved futile. What as a society we want 
to do we are not able to do. That which we do not want to 
do we find ourselves helplessly doing. That which we do, we 
hate. We hate it because we know that it is destroying us. 
But while we loathe the present social situation we sink 
more and more deeply into the morass of futility. 

In such a distraught and dismembered world individuals 
find it more and more difficult to live. For countless numbers 
life has lost any sense of meaning and worth. Increasing 
numbers have sought the way out through suicide. Others, 
too long frustrated in the attempt at any effective solution, 
have yielded to embittered pessimism. Others have given up 
the struggle and have taken refuge in protective apathy. 
But others — upon whom the hope of the future depends — 
are earnestly, if sometimes uncertainly, seeking and yet 
again seeking for some body of fundamental values around 
which they may consolidate the inner resources of their spir- 
itual life and upon which they may build for themselves a 
rational and consistent world of reality. 

All of this has a very familiar sound. One might close his 
eyes to the present scene and easily imagine that he was back 
in the days of the eighth century prophets when all the social 
foundations were being moved. Or he might think that he 
was treading again the streets of Athens when the city states 


were crumbling and the Sophists were opening the way for 
the philosophers to build a rational world upon a new intel- 
lectual and social basis. Or he might feel beneath his feet 
the flagstones of the great military roads that stretched 
across the face of Europe, amidst the rumblings of the fall- 
ing Roman Empire. The sense of frustration and confusion 
at the falling to pieces of our world is probably not relatively 
greater than that which has beset every generation when "the 
foundations were moved." Only our situation has become 
more complex, more extended and more difficult to manage. 
But it is essentially the same situation that forever recurs 
in a world of change. Neither may we nor our children hold 
out to ourselves the hope that the foundations of modern 
life will be so firmly and wisely established that they cannot 
in the future be moved. On this account it is impossible, 
however hard it may be to accept the saying, that the formu- 
lation of values that has grown out of any period will endure 
the disintegration of change. New adjustments and new 
modes of thought will be necessary as long as change cuts 
away the foundations of traditional modes of thought and 
action. But the necessity of some working integration of 
values into a total meaning and worth of life, in whatever 
form expressed or by whatever means achieved, is timeless. 
Without some such integration of one's personal life and of 
the world in which he lives, life cannot go on. 

On this ground one may well find it impossible to yield to 
a pessimistic view regarding the future of religion. Its 
permanency as a quality of man's personal and social ex- 
perience does not rest alone upon history. It rests funda- 
mentally upon the needs of human nature. As long as man is 
man, he is compelled by his nature to find for himself some 
organization of his desires in order, not only to self-fulfil- 
ment, but in order to live at all. History and contemporary 
experience have shown conclusively that man's unorganized 


and undisciplined desires are self-destructive. Mental health 
and cultural integrity rest upon some unification of man's 
irrational impulses into a system of organized values. One 
need not, therefore, be greatly concerned as to whether or 
not man will continue to be religious. One's concern may 
more properly be with reference to the basis upon which the 
organization of man's desires and his values may be achieved. 
Shall they be organized around his partial and specialized 
interests, such as profits, nationalism, race, detached intelli- 
gence or even detached and fanatical religion? Or shall 
there be an organization of all the values involved in living — 
the economic, the intellectual, the political, the aesthetic and 
the moral — into a total meaning and worth of life that oper- 
ates at the living center of man's total experience with his 
world ? 

Clearly this calls, not for the imitation of past forms of 
religious thought and action, but for something dynamic, 
something experimental, something creative in terms of the 
contemporary experience of the modem world. The resources 
for religious living available in the Bible do not consist of 
the specific forms of religious thought and behavior of any 
given historical period. To attempt to reproduce the concrete 
forms of religious concepts, techniques and institutions is to 
bind the living heart of religion within the dead past. This 
idea was fundamental in the attitude of Jesus. God, he said, 
"is not the God of dead men, but of living."-^^ In order to 
imitate the past in any valid way it would be necessary to 
reproduce the concrete and specific cultural conditions of the 
past. This, of course, is neither possible nor desirable. The 
task of the modern religious community is much more sig- 
nificant than that. Its task is to disengage the permanently 
valid religious values from their concrete, specific and tempo- 
"Matt. 22:32. 


rary contexts of a changing experience in such a way as to 
free them for use in the Hving experience of the present. 

This is precisely what Jesus did in a most astonishing 
manner. With reference to many standards and regulations 
of the past as recorded in the Hebrew Bible of his day he 
said, "Ye have heard that it was said .... but I say unto 
you." Under this formula he seized upon the essential spirit- 
ual content of the regulations of the Law regarding murder, 
adultery, the lex talionis and love for one's neighbor and, 
disengaging them from their concrete and temporary histori- 
cal context, he reset them in the broader context of a de- 
veloping historical experience and of the experience of his 
time. Murder is not so much a matter of physical violence as 
an attitude of hate toward another human being.^^ Adultery 
passes beyond a physical act to the deeper sin of an undis- 
ciplined desire that sets at naught the sacredness of another's 
personality.^^ The lex talionis as an authorized method of 
revenge is a temporary device of immature culture which has 
not yet learned that society can rest in peace and security 
only upon the social attitudes of good-will that run beyond 
non-resistance to service.-^^ Neighborliness cannot be selective 
in a complex social world. Good-will must include not only 
those who are friendly but be inclusive enough to embrace 
those whom one may happen not to like.^^ 

When one of his disciples asked him concerning the limits 
of forgiveness, quoting one of the ancient proverbs, Jesus 
replied that the limits of forgiveness were not the traditional 
"seven times," but seventy times seven, thus removing all 
limits to one's obligation to cancel harbored injury.^^ On 
another occasion when his critics were pressing him, thinking 

"Matt. 5:21, 22. 
" Matt. 5 :27, 28. 
"Matt. 5:38-42. 
"Matt. 5:43-48. 
^Matt. 18:21, 22. 


that they might impale him on an intricate point of the Law, 
they posed the question of divorce. To the discomfiture of 
their legalistic and literal minds, he seized upon that part of 
the Scripture, also a part of the most sacred books of the 
Law, that went to the heart of the relation of husband and 
wife in the Genesis narrative of the creation: "Did you never 
read that the Creator at the beginning made them male and 
female, and said. Tor this reason a man shall leave his 
father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two of 
them shall become one ? So that they are no longer two but 
one. Therefore, what God has joined together man must not 
try to separate.' " Routed on this point, they pressed him to 
reconcile this fundamental principle with the legislation of 
Moses permitting divorce. To which he replied, "It was on 
account of your perversity that Moses permitted you to di- 
vorce your wives, but it was not so at the beginning. I tell 
you that whoever divorces his wife on any ground but her 
unfaithfulness, and marries another woman, commits adul- 

When he was challenged by his critics to name the greatest 
commandment of the Law, he instantly seized upon the heart 
of all regulatory principles that are involved in the relations 
of man to God and to his fellow-beings, by bringing together 
one passage from Leviticus and one from Deuteronomy: 
" 'You must love the Lord your God with your whole heart, 
your whole soul, and your whole mind.' This is the great, 
first command. There is a second like it : 'You must love your 
neighbor as you do yourself.' These two commandments sum 
up the whole of the Law and the Prophets.""'' In this clear 
insight into the basic values that lay behind all specific and 
temporary legal formulations he could well reply to the shal- 
low and inflexible literalism that arose out of the confusion 

"Matt. 19:1-9. 
^ Matt. 22 :34-40. 


of specific legislation with underlying human values, "You 
are wrong, because you do not understand the Scriptures nor 
the power of God.""^ 

These passages have often been cited to show what a mas- 
ter Jesus was in the art of controversy. But they are much 
more significant than that. They reveal an insight and a fun- 
damental attitude on the part of Jesus toward the whole 
range of traditional Jewish ideas, legislation and institutions. 
They are illustrations of his basic attitude toward Hebrew 
history. This attitude finds its clearest and most striking 
expression in that statement which constitutes the heart of 
his so-called Sermon on the Mount. "Do not suppose," said 
he, "that I have come to do away with the Law or the 
Prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to en- 
force them. For I tell you, as long as heaven and earth en- 
dure, not one dotting of an i or crossing oi a. t will be 
dropped from the Law until it is all observed. ... I tell you 
that unless your uprightness is far superior to that of the 
scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter into the Kingdom 
of Heaven I"-^ 

These statements of Jesus conclusively rest upon the as- 
sumption of the temporary character of specific legislation 
and institutions. They penetrate to the living heart of the 
values that served as the basis and end of all legislative and 
institutional devices. Jesus abstracted these values from their 
concrete and passing historical contexts and made them avail- 
able as the timeless winnings of a long and changing histori- 
cal experience for the conduct of life in its manifold divine- 
human and human-human relations. It is needless to suggest 
that this is the reason why the teachings of Jesus have sur- 
vived the vicissitudes of so many changing centuries, or why 
his embodiment of these values in his own personal experi- 

**Matt. 22:29. 
"Matt. 5:17-20. 


ence has continued to exert such a wide-spread and growing 
influence throughout the civiHzed world. These values, be- 
cause they inhere in the fundamental relations of human be- 
ings to their material and social world, and at the same time 
are not identified with the passing moment of experience, 
are self -validating in a universal and timeless experience. 
They mark the difference between Jesus and the traditional- 
ists of his own time or of all time. The traditionalists in- 
sisted upon the recovery and imitation of the specific formu- 
lations of the past; Jesus insisted upon the recovery and 
release of the enduring and functioning values that underlie 
and are the occasion for all implementations of ideologies, 
legislation, techniques and institutions. 

Jesus, it will thus be seen, is the best possible illustration, 
both in his attitude and method, of our final principle in the 
utilization of the Bible in modern religious experience — the 
recovery and release for the purposes of current living of the 
enduring values inherent in the divine-human and human- 
human relations that are set by the constitution of the uni- 
verse and by the relation of man to his social environment. 
Here is indeed the Living Word — the Word of the Living 
present and not the word of the dead past. If, through intel- 
ligence, insight and spiritual comprehension, the men of this 
generation can capture this attitude and method of Jesus in 
the utilization of our Bible as he did of his Bible, it will 
again become the Living Word by being reinstated in the 
forward-moving and expanding experience of the Living 


The chronology of the literature of the Old and New Tes- 
taments is that arranged by Professor Edgar J. Goodspeed. 
That for the Old Testament is from The Story of the Old 
Testament} Professor Goodspeed has been good enough to 
prepare the chronology of the literature of the New Testa- 
ment especially for use in this volume. 


B. C. 

Ca 1 1 50 The Song of Deborah 

Ca 850 The Judean History 

765-750 The work of Amos 

Ca 750 The Ephraimitic History 

745-735 The work of Hosea 

730-721 The work of Micah 

740-701 The work of Isaiah 

721 The Fall of Samaria 

By 650 The Judean and Ephraimitic histories com- 


Ca 650 The Book of Deuteronomy 

627 The Scythian Invasion ; Zephaniah 

621 The Finding of Deuteronomy 

612 The Fall of Nineveh; Nahum 

608-597 The work of Habakkuk 

627-586 The work of Jeremiah 

597 The Fall of Jerusalem 

597-538 The Exile 

592 The Call of Ezekiel 

586 The Second Capture of Jerusalem 

586-538 The Histories combined with Deuteronomy 

550 The book of Samuel-Kings completed 

538 The Fall of Babylon ; the return from Exile ; 
Isa., chaps. 40-55. 
*Used by permission of the University of Chicago Press. 




The work of Haggai and Zechariah 

The work of Malachi 

The work of Nehemiah 

The Book of Obacliah 

The priestly book of law and history 

The Book of Judges completed 

The Book of Joel 

The work of Ezra 

The formation of the Hexeteuch 

The work of the Chronicler 

The books of Lamentations and Proverbs 

The Book of Daniel 

The Book of Ecclesiastes 

The completion of the Psalter 

The Book of Esther 















































I, II Thessalonians 


Corinthian Correspondence 


Philippians, Colossians, Philemon 

Death of Paul 

The Gospel according to Mark 

The Gospel according to Matthew 


Paul's letters collected 




I Peter 


The Gospel and Letters of John 

The Four Gospels collected 

Jude, the Pastorals, II Peter 

A Selected Bibliography 

Angus, Samuel, The Environment of Early Christianity, New 
York: Scribners, 1931. 

, The Mystery-religions and Christianity: A Study in 

the Religious Backgrounds of Early Christianity, New York: 
Scribners, 1925. 

Bacon, Benjamin Wisner, An Introduction to the New Testa- 
ment, New York : Macmillan, 1907. 

Bewer, Julius A., The Literature of the Old Testament in Its 
Historical Development, New York: Columbia University- 
Press, 1926. 

Box, G. H., A Short Introduction to the Literature of the Old 
Testament, London: Rivingtons, 1909. 

Brightman, Edgar Sheffield, The Sources of the Hexeteuch, 
New York: Abingdon, 19 18. 

Case, Shirley Jackson, The Evolution of Early Christianity : A 
Genetic Study of First-century Christianity in Relation to Its 
Religious Environment, Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1914. 

, The Social Origins of Christianity, Chicago : Univer- 
sity of Chicago Press, 1923. 

, The Experience with the Supernatural in Early Chris- 
tian Times, New York: The Century Company, 1929. 

Creelman, H., Introduction to the Old Testament, Chronologi- 
cally Arranged, New York: Macmillan, 1917. 

Dodds, Marcus, The Bible: Its Origin and Nature, New York: 
Scribners, 1905. 

Driver, S. R., An Introduction to the Literature of the Old 
Testament, New York: Scribners, 1913. 

Fairweather, William, The Backgrounds of the Gospels, Edin- 
burgh: T. and T. Clark, 1920. 

Fosdick, Harry Emerson, The Modern Use of the Bible, New 
York: Macmillan, 1924. 

Fowler, Henry T., The History and Literature of the New 
Testament, New York: Macmillan, 1925. 



Gilbert, George HoUey, Greek Thought in the New Testament, 
New York: Macmillan, 1928. 

Goodspeed, Edgar J., New Solutions of New Testament Prob- 
lems, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1927. 

, The Formation of the New Testament, Chicago : Uni- 
versity of Chicago Press, 1927. 

The Meaning of Ephesians, Chicago : University of 

Chicago Press, 1933. 

-, The Story of the Old Testament, Chicago : University 

of Chicago Press, 1935. 

The Shorter Bible (with introductions to the several 

books), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1933. 
Gordon, A. R., The Poets of the Old Testament, London : Hod- 

der and Stoughton, 191 2. 
Graham, William Creighton, The Prophets and Israel's Culture, 

Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1934. 
Graham, William C, and May, Herbert G., Culture and Cofi- 

science, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1936. 
Grant, Frederick G., The Growth of the Gospels, New York : 

Abingdon, 1933. _ _ 

, Form Criticism, Chicago : Willett, Clark and Co., 1934. 

Gray, G. B., A Critical Introduction to the Old Testament, New 

York: Scribners, 1913. 
Gregory, Casper Rene, The Canon and Text of the New Testa- 

m^ent. New York: Scribners, 1907. 
Gunkel, Hermann, The Legends of Genesis, Chicago: Open 

Court, 1901. 
James, Montague Rhodes, The Apocryphal New Testament, 

Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924, 
Lake, Kirsopp, The Earlier Epistles of Paul, London : Riving- 

tons, 1914. 
Lewis, Frank G., How the Bible Grew, Chicago : University of 

Chicago Press, 1919. 
McNeille, A. H., An Introduction to the Study of the New 

Testament, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927. 
Mathews, Shailer, A History of New Testament Times in Pal- 
estine, New York: Macmillan, 1910. 
Matthews, L G., Old Testament Life and Literature, New 

York: Macmillan, 1934. 
Moflfatt, James, An Introduction to the Literature of the New 

Testament, New York: Scribners, 1918. 


Moore, George Foot, The Literature of the Old Testament, 

New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1913. 
Peake, Arthur S., The Bible: Its Origin, Its Significance, and 

Its Abiding Worth, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1920, 
Peake, Arthur S. et al., The People and the Book, Oxford: 

Clarendon Press, 1925. 
Porter, Frank C, The Message of the Apocalyptic Writers, 

New York: Scribners, 1911. 
Price, Ira M., The Ancestry of the English Bible, New York: 

Harpers, 1906. 
Smith, J. M. Powis, The Prophet and his Problems, New York: 

Scribners, 1916. 
, The Prophets and Their Times, Chicago: University 

of Chicago Press, 1924. 

-, The Origin and History of Hebrew Law, Chicago: 

University of Chicago Press, 1931. 
Streeter, Burnett H., The Four Gospels: A Study of Origins, 

New York : Macmillan, 1930. 
Wallis, Louis, God and the Social Process, Chicago : University 

of Chicago Press, 1933. 
Willett, Herbert Lockwood, The Bible through the Centuries, 

Chicago: Willett, Clark, and Colby, 1929. 
Wood, Irving F. and Grant, Elihu, The Bible as Literature, 

New York: Abingdon, 1914. 


Acts, Book of, 114, 126, 129, 131, 

134, 159 
Adjustment, an achievement, 28, 43 
a phase of man's interaction with 

his world, 43, 143, 150 
dynamic character of, 26-27 
the task of the religious person, 
15-28, 43, 150 
Amorites, and property, 61, 68-69, 

conflict of with Hebrew ideals, 

63-64, 68-69 
cultural organization of, 61-63, 

religion of, 62, 76 
Amos, 76, 77-79 

Appreciation, of historical situa- 
tions, 160, 165 
of religious experience of the 

past, 48, 171 
the outgrowth of imagination, 
165, 166-167 
Art, and imagination, 165-166 
functional relation of to experi- 
ence, 25-26 
Attitudes, as ways of behaving, 22 
tend to be more universal than 
their expression, 22-23 
Aubrey, E. E., 11 

Authority, authoritative view of 
the Bible, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 
II, Z^, 33, 43, 46, 53-54, 95, 
99, 154-155, 164, 167 
Bible, source of, i 
turning toward, 35-36 

Baptism, 19, 135 

Barnes, Harry Elmer, 194 

Barth, Karl, appeal of to super- 
naturalism and authority, 35- 

. 36 

insistence of upon the Bible, 10- 
Beliefs, accompaniments of end- 
seeking activity, 22, 

arise within the stream, of experi- 
ence, 96, 198-199 
Bertram, G., 136 

Bible, the, authoritative view of, 
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, II, 32, 33, 
43, 46, 53-54, 95, 99, I54-I55, 
164, 167 

canonization of, 50-54, 74, 154, 
158, 163 

Catholic attitude toward, i 

changing attitude toward, 4-10, 


character traits and, 3-4 

conflict of with science, 6-8 

cross-referencing of, 3 

deposit of man's experience, 1 1, 
12, 46-49, 74, 88, 142, 153-155, 

dissociated from life of com- 
munity, 46, 53, 154-155, 163, 

end-product of past religious ex- 
perience, 28, 153, 154, 159, 163- 

functional use of, 141, i53 

genetic origin of, 157, 159, 161 

interpreted in the light of special 
interests, i 

irrelevancy of to modern life, 8- 
10, 50 

level concept of, 2 

place of in modern world, 1-14 



Bible — ( Continued) 

place of in realist movement, lo- 

printing of, 2 

private interpretation of and sec- 
tarianism, 1-2 

problem of utilization, 11-12 

proof-text use of, 3 

Protestant attitude toward, i 

record of religious experience, 
23, 46, 49-50, 55, 95 

relation of to religious com- 
munity, 46-49, 54-55, 140-141, 
157, 159, 162, 214 

relevancy of to modern life, SO, 

resource for religious living, 29, 

43-54, 153, 155 

restoration to the religious com- 
munity, 12, 54, 141, 142-143, 
156, 214 

symbolic use of, 4, 161-162, 164, 

unread book, i, 4, 5, 10 

use of in catechism, 3 

use of as fetish, 3 

use of in missions, 33-34 

use of in preaching, 2, 3, 5, 33 

use of in religious education, 5, 
28, 22, 33 

utilization of in terms of its or- 
igin, S2, 54, 141 
Biblical research, 11 -12 
Brotherhood, core of mishpat ideal, 

versus property, 76-77, 176-179 
Bultmann, Rudolph, 136 

Canon, effect of upon Bible, 53-54, 
gradual and selective process, 53 
grew out of religious community, 

idea of, 53 
of New Testament, 52, 154, 163 

Canon — (Continued) 
of Old Testament, 51, 74, 154, 
158, 163 
Case, Shirley Jackson, 107 
Catechism and the Bible, 3 
Catholic, view of the Bible, i 

view of the mass, 20, 188-189 
Ceremonies, among Central Aus- 
tralian tribes, 18 
among Christians, 19-20 
among Chinese, 18 
among Hebrews, 18-19 
among Todas, 18 
among West African tribes, 18 
comparable with scientific tech- 
niques, 13, 20-21 
continuity of, 188-189 
functionally related to experi- 
ence, 17, 18, 148 
Intichiuma, 17-18 
techniques for accomplishing 

ends, 17-21, 148-149 
witchetty-grub, 18 
Change, as a phase of process, 189- 
characteristic of present, 36, 43- 

44, 17s 

contemporary, 27, 44-45, 192-194, 

differential rate of, 199-202 

requires new adjustments, 209 
Christian movement, the, and the 
Mediterranean world, 96-109, 
no, 191 

arose within Judaism, iio-iii, 

became official religion of Em- 
pire, 122-123 

competition of with other reli- 
gions, 120-121 

effects of Jewish environment 
upon. III 

emancipation from Judaism, 138- 


hostility of Palestinian Judaism 
toward, 112-113 



Christian movement — {Continued) 
influence of gentile world upon, 

influence of Paul upon, 113-117 
internal development of, 1 10-123 
its social origin, 123 
new centers of on gentile soil, 


persecution of, iii 

relation to state, 128 

tensions of with pagan world, 

tensions within, 128-130 
transition of to gentile world, 
Chronology, of New Testament, 
of Old Testament, 215-216 
City states, decay of, 105-106 
effect of upon Christian move- 
ment, 105-106 
Coe, George A., 20 
Colossians, 124-125 
Commission of Seven, 153 
Community, the religious, Bible 
grew out of, 12, 46, 49, IIO, 
124, 140-141 
contemporary, 43-44. 142 
continuing, 43, 44, 50, 55, 96, 

extent of, 43-44 
functional use of gospels in, 135- 

historical, 44 

influence of upon canon, 50-53 
religious life takes place within, 


restoration of Bible to, 12, 54, 
141, 142, 214 

source of ideas, techniques, val- 
ues, and institutions, 43-44, 55 
Continuity, a phase of process, 185- 

necessary to understanding of re- 
ligion, 187 

I Corinthians, 124, 127, 128, 130 

II Corinthians, 114, 124, 125, 130, 

Creation, 39-40, 173 
Creeds, 17, 21 

Cultic use of the gospels, 135-136 
Cultural lag, 186 
Cybele, 108 

Daniel, Book of, 162 
Deuteronomic source, 50, yz, 88-90, 

158, 163 
Dewey, John, 17, 165, 185 
Dibelius, M., 136 
Driver, S. R., 60, 85 

Ecclesiastes, Book of, 75, 93-94 
Eddington, A. E., 183 
Education, 34-35, 150, 152-153 
Eleusinian mysteries, 108 
Emotion and end-seeking activity, 

Ephesians, Book of, 38, 130, 131, 

Ephraimite source, 38, 50, 60, 7Z> 

76, 85-88, 157-158, 163 
Ethical monotheism, 67, 176-177, 

Evolution, 6-7 
Experience, active, 147-148 
affair of persons, 143 
nature of, 143 

outgrowth of man's interaction 
with his world, 143, 145-146, 
social character of, 143-146, 154 
source of vitality, 155 
structure of, 146-147 
worth of present, 34-36, 42 

Fascher, E., 136 

Form Criticism, 135-136 

Fosdick, Harry Emerson, 170 

Galatians, 124, 125, 129 



Genesis, 56 

Genesis-to-Kings, composition of, 

50, 72, 76 

legal section of, 75, 88-90 
narrative section of, 75, 85-88 
origin of, 85-91 
priestly section of, 75, 90-91 
Genetic order in growth of Bible, 

51, 55-56, 159, 161, 172 

God, appears at point of man's in- 
teraction with his world, 27 
behavior of universe, 20, 148 
changing concepts of, 14, 44, 174, 

creative, 27-28, 40, 148 
monotheistic concept of, 97-98 
personally conceived. 20, 148 
primitive concepts of, 9-10, 174, 
Goodspeed, Edgar J., 131 
Gospels, Fourth, 138-139, 159 
influence of cultic use upon, 135- 

propagandist character of, 131- 

synoptic, 131-136, 158-159 
Graded Lessons, 153 
Graham, W. C, 56, 58, 190 
Grant, Frederick G., 136 
Greek contribution to Mediterra- 
nean world, esthetic creative- 
ness, loi 
dynamic spirit, 102 
philosophy, loo-ioi 
secular spirit, 100 
social theories, 101-102 
the Greek language, 102 

Habakkuk, 40-41 

Hagiagrapha, the, 51, 75, 91-94, 

154, 159, 163 
Hebrews, Book of, 137, 159 
Hebrews, the, animists, 58 
assimilation to Amorite culture, 
64, 70-71 

Hebrews — {Continued) 
conflict with Amorite culture, 

contact with Kenites, 59-60 
cultural development of, 55-74 
development of during the Exile, 

differences between northern and 

southern sections of, 64-65 
Ephraim's leadership of, 67-68 
fall of Judah, 72 
fall of northern kingdom, 71 
idolaters, 59 

Judah's leadership of, 71-72 
mishpat of, 60-61, 64, 71 
monarchy achieved by, 65-66 
polytheists, 58-60 
primitive, 57-62 
property among, 58, 61, 77 
religion of, 56, 64 
rise of prophetic movement 

among, 64, 69-70 
separation into northern and 

southern kingdoms, 64-65, 66- 

67, 68 
social organization of, 57-88 
Historical criticism, and Barth, 11 
earliest effects of, 5-6 
led to change in attitude to- 
ward Bible, 5, 33 
raises problem of utilization, 12 
results generally accepted, 5-6 
rise of, 5 
Historical perspective, gives sense 

of direction, 192-196 
principle of, 182-196 
History, applied to religion, 1S4 
as process, 35 

gives sense of direction, 192-196 
meaning of, 184 
reconstructed in light of present, 

37-38, 86-88 
value of, 13, 49-50, 196 
Hosea, 76, 79-81 




Ideas, accompany end-seeking ac- 
tivity, 23 
arise within experience, 23-26, 

27, 40, 43, 182-183, 198-199 
functional, 17, 55, 148 
instruments of religion, 14 
subject to change, 14, 27, 198-200 
ways of behaving, 22 
Imagination, creative, 165-166, 167 

function of, 164-167 
Inspiration, 32 

Institutions, arise out of experi- 
ence, 21-22, 27, 55, 183, 198- 
instruments of religion, 14, 198 
Integration, of personality, 205-209 

of values, 203-205 
International Lesson Committee, 

Isaiah, 76, 82-83 

James, Book of, 138 
Jesus, and the distraught self, 206 
birth and death of, 19 
his use of the Bible, 211-214 
imitation of, 175-176 
life and teaching of, 131-136 
Jews, bible of, 99 
contribution of to Mediterranean 

world, 97-100 
diaspora of, 99 

furnished earliest nuclei of Chris- 
tians, 99-100 
genius of for religion, 97 
Jesus descended from, 99 
Messianic hope of, 38, 39, 82, 83, 

94. 98, 157, ^77, 191 
monotheistic conception of God, 

sects of, no 
Job, 75, 92 
John, gospel and letters of, 138- 

Judaic source, 38, 50, 56, 60, 72, 
76, 85-88, 157-158, 163 

Kohler, L., 136 
Kundsin, Karl, 136 

Law, 34, 51, 52, 56, 154, 159, 163 
Living Word, the, Bible such at 

the point of origin, 46, 142, 

154, 155 
Bible will again become such 

when restored to community, 

46, 54, 142, 154, 155, 214 
its relation to concrete situations, 

153-155, 195 
Lord's supper, the, 20, 135, 188-189 
Luke, gospel of, 134 
Luke-Acts, 134-135, 159 

Man, 7, 8, 10, 21, 27, 29, 40, 171, 

173-174, 182 
Mana, 18, 187-188 
Mark, gospel of, 132, 133 
Mass, the, 20 

Mathematics, its functional rela- 
tion to culture, 24-25 
May, H. G., 56, 58, 190 
Mead, George H., 36 
Mechanism, 148 

Mediterranean world, the, charac- 
teristics of, 96-109 
confluence of cultures in, 96-104 
favorable to Christianity, 109 
Greek contribution to, 100-102 
influence of upon Christianity, 
108-109, 115-116, 118-123, 124, 
Jewish contribution to, 96-iDO 
religious conditions in, 104-109 
Roman contribution to, 102-104 
Messianic hope, 38, 39, 82, 83, 94, 

98, 157, 177, 191 
Micah, 76, 81-82 
Middle Ages, the, 29, 31, 97 
Miracles, 9, 174 

Mishpat, concept of, 60-61, 6;^, 82, 
conflict of with Amorite ideals, 
64, 67, 68-69, 76, 176-177 



Mishpat — {Continued) 

ideals of relevant to modern 
world, 176-179 

made official in Judaic monarchy, 
71-72, 89, 158 

translated "justice," 78 
Mithraism, 108 
Monasticism, 31 
Morgan, L. H., 58 
Mystery religions, ceremonies of, 

Cybele, 108 

Dionysos-Orphic cult, 108 

Eleusinian, 108 

ideological content of, 108 

Mithraism, 108 

nature of, 107-108 
Mysticism, 31-32 

Naboth, incident of, 68-69 
New Testament, the, Acts, 133-134 
canon of, 52, 163 
deposited by the Christian move- 
ment, 98, no, 124, 140, 142, 
153, 158 
development of literature of, 124- 

gospel and letters of John, 138- 

139, 159 
Hebrews, 137, 159 
pastoral epistles, 140, 159 
Pauline epistles, 51, 124-131, 158, 

Revelation, 136, 159 
synoptic gospels, 131-136, 158- 


Old Testament, the, Amos, 77-79 
canon of, 51, 74, 158 
development of literature of, 75- 

Ecclesiastes, 93-94 
grew out of experience of com- 
munity, 142, 153, 157 
Hagiagrapha, the, 91-94 
Hosea, 79-81 

Old Testament — {Continued) 
Isaiah, 82-83 
Job, 92 

legal section of, 88-90 
Micah, 81-82 
narrative section of, 85-88 
priestly section of, 90-91 
prophetic section of, 76-85 
Proverbs, 92-94 
Psalms, the, 94 
Song of Songs, 91-92 

Past, the, exists only in present, 

36-37, 49 

illusory, 44-45 

imitation of, 210-214 

less glamorous than seems, 35 

nostalgia for, 35 

outgrowth of what was once 
present, 41-42 

reconstruction of in light of pres- 
ent, 37-38, 86-88 

recovery of, 32-33 

tentative in its outcomes, 41-42 
Pastoral epistles, the, 38, 140, 159 
Pauck, Wilhelm, 11 
Paul, apostleship of, 117 

born on gentile soil, 114-115 

ideology of influenced by gentile 
environment, 114-115 

influence of upon Christianity, 


Jewish descent of, 114 

letters of, 124-131, 154, 158, 163 

personality of, 116-117 
I Peter, 132, 137-138 
Philemon, 124-125 
Philippians, 124 
Prayer, 18 

Present, the, characterized by 
change, 35, 40-41, I7S 

creative, 35, 39 

future implicit in, 38-39 

growing point of historical proc- 
ess, 49, 196 

locus of reality, 36-42, 49, 196 



Present — ( Continued) 
moment in which religion func- 
tions, 29 
past reconstructed in light of, 37- 

reality of, 36-42 
significance of, 29-42 
world as evil, 30 
world as temporary, 30 
worth of, 35, 36-42 
Priestly source, 38, 50, 60, y2» 90- 

91, 158, 163 
Process, applied to religion, 184- 

characteristic of experience, 146- 

characterized by change, 189-192 
characterized by continuity, 185- 

characterized by possibilities, 

creative, 39-40 

gives sense of direction, 192-195 
God at work in, 195-196 
meaning of history, 184 
mode of thought, 7, 182 
reality conceived as, 7, 40, 147- 

148, 183 
source of meanings, values, tech- 
niques and institutions, 40-41 
Propaganda, effect upon Christian 
message, 112 
effect upon gospels, 131-136 
temper of early church, 131, 140 
Property, 61, 68, 77, 176, 177 
Prophetic movement, defeatist, 64, 

72-73. 177 
embodiment of social justice, 76- 

grew out of conflict with Am- 

orite culture, 69, 76 
minority, 64, 67, 70-71, 177 
origin of, 70-71, 76-77 
Prophets, 51, 52, 56, 70, 75. 76. 

84, 154, 157, 159, 163, 178, 188 

Protestant, attitude toward the 
Bible, I, 2 
view of the Lord's supper, 188- 
Proverbs, 75, 92-94, 158 
Psalms, the, 75, 94, 158 

Redemption, drama of, 19 
Relevancy, absence of in much of 
Bible, 173-176 
determines use of Bible, 180-181 
distinguishable from validity, 

of much of Bible, 8-10, 50, 176- 

principle of, 168-181 
selection in light of, 171-173 
of unequal, parts of Bible, 168 
value of Bible depends upon, 
Religion, an affair of persons and 
groups, 15 
arises out of man's interaction 
with his world, 23-28, 67-68, 
as escape, 29, 157, 177 
as recovery of past, 32 
assumes many concrete forms, 16 
ceremonies of, 17-20, 148 
compared with law and educa- 
tion, 34-35_ 
concerned with entire range of 

experience, 28, 151 
concerned with values, 197-203 
distinguishable from the reli- 
gious, 16-17, 150-153, 184 
end-products of, 55-56, 164, 184, 

185 . 
end-seeking activity, 23 
functional relation of to experi- 
ence, 17, 29, 149, 150, 198 
future of, 209-210 
ideology of, 13, 23-26, 198-200 
institutions of, 17, 21-22 
nature of, 15-17, 149-150, 197- 



Relig ion — ( Continued) 
one approach to reality, 13, 27 
other-worldly view of, 29-32 
phase of culture, 13, 27-28, 29, 
55, 58, 62, 67, 69, 85, 86, 95, 
96, 162, 176 
primitive, 188 

quality of experience, 16, 57, 149, 
151-153, 154, 163, 184-1S5, 197- 
scientific study of, 149 
social character of, 15, 154 
source of motivation, 175 
techniques of, 13-14, 17-21, 148- 

traditional attitudes of, 29-35 
ways of behaving, 15-23 
Religious education, Bible-centered, 
5, 22, 
function of, 28, 32, 150-151, 152 
Religious movements in Mediter- 
ranean world, hope of immor- 
tality, 107 
influence upon Christianity, 108- 

mystery religions, 107-108 
sense of sin, 106-107 
spiritual yearning, 104-107 
supernatural tendencies, 107 
unrest, 105-106 
Religious values, abstraction of 
from historical experience, 
arise within experience, 198-204 
change in, 171, 198-203 
common to many groups, 204- 

distinguishable from forms of ex- 
pression, 202-203 
function of, 149 

in contemporary culture, 205-210 
integration of particular values, 

recovery of, 197-214 

Religious values — {Continued) 
relative permanency of, 200-203 
source of motivation, 175 
Revelation, 11, 32, 46, 148 
Revelation, Book of, 39, 136, 137, 

159, 162 
Reverse order, principle of, 157- 

Ritual, arises out of experience, 
as technique, 9 
subject to change, 198-199 
Roman contribution to Mediter- 
ranean world, genius for insti- 
tutions, 104 
law, 103 

military achievement, 102 
national unity, 103 
pax Romanus, 103 
political state, 103 
practical efficiency, 102 
protection, 104 
Romans, 124, 125, 128, 130 

St. Augustine, 207 

Salvation, 27, 29, 30 

Science, conflict with Bible, 6-8 
method of, 6-7, 35, 174 
techniques of compared with re- 
ligion, 13 

Selective use of the Bible, 171-173, 

Septuagint, the, 99 

Sin, 27, 106-107 

Social justice, 60, 74, 76, 82, 84, 

Social science, source of techniques, 

175, 179 
Social situations, imagination nec- 
essary to reconstruction of, 160 
reconstruction of, 96, 160-167, 

sources of Bible, 157-160, 162 
understanding necessary to re- 
construction of, 160-164 



Song of Songs, 75, 91-92 
Sophists, the, 209 
Supernatural, element in Judaism, 
influence of upon Christianity, 

in Mediterranean world, 107 
source of redemption, 29 
turning toward in present, 35 
view of the Bible, lo-ii, 2i^, 33 
Symbolic use of the Bible, 4, 162- 
163, 164 

Theology, function of, 148 

I Thessalonians, 124, 125 

II Thessalonians, 124 
Todas, the, 18 

Transition of Christianity to gen- 
tile world, Christianity be- 
comes religion of Empire, 122- 
competition with other religions, 

118, 120-121 
effect of upon Christianity, 115- 

factors that led to, 112-117 
influence of city, 117-118 
influence of Paul, 113-117 
influence of philosophy, 119-120 
influence of supernatural ele- 
ment, I 19-120 
institutionalization, 121-122 

Understanding necessary to recon- 
struction of social situations, 
160-164, 167 
Uniform Lessons, 153 
Utilization of the Bible, beginning 
with people where they are, 
historical perspective, 182-196 
in terms of nature and origin, 

11-12, 54, 141 
principles of, 142-214 
recovering the religious values of 

the Bible, 197-214 
reverse order, 157- 181 
selection, 171-173, 180-181 
Utopian thought among Hebrews, 
apocalypticism, 39, 73-74 
idealization of the past, 72 
Messianic hope, 38, 39, 72-73, 191 

Validity of religious ideas and prac- 
tices, 168-171 
Values, abstraction of from histori- 
cal experience, 14, 210-214 
arise within experience, 2^26, 

40, 198-202, 203-204 
integration of, 203-205 
slow to change, 200-203 

WalHs, Louis, 56, 60, 65, 85, 86 
Wells, H. G., 203 
West African tribes, 18 
Whitehead, W. N., 40, 183